Mall of America, where civil liberties go to buy


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Bluestem’s editor has been to the Mall of America three times in her life: once to shop in the mid-1990s, once to stop by a bookstore where a friend of a friend worked, and a final time to meet a former student for lunch as he was on his way to Hazelton.

Thus, we can’t honestly say we’re boycotting a place we don’t patronize to begin with. Had we enough money for reckless consumer spending, we’d indulge our tastes locally, with purchases of pasture-raised pork or beef raised by family farmers and prints by prairie photographers.

Two stories underscore the liberty-loving nature of our shopping preferences, both centered on MOA. First, the complaints brought up against people involved in the pre-Christmas Black Lives Matter protests. Just three days ago, Minnesota Public Radio’s Emily Kaiser looked at that issue in Black Lives Matter: The legal issues behind MOA protest:

Black Lives Matter and local civil rights groups have denounced the charges, suggesting their participants are being unfairly singled out. The city attorney is also seeking restitution for the cost of policing the event.

“I think the charges and the nature and number of charges being brought are disturbing,” said Bruce Nestor, attorney and member of the Black Lives Matter legal team on MPR News. “But really what’s unprecedented is the demand for restitution for the cost of police response and even we’ve heard in media reports a demand for restitution for the claim that the Mall of America lost profits. It’s really trying to make people pay for the right to have free speech.”

The protest has led to an ongoing discussion about public versus private space when it comes to access for protesting. . . .

Late last night, a rural Minnesota lawmaker raised a question about another civil liberty that’s limited by the MOA’s status as private space.  WCCO CBS Minnesota reports inLawmaker Challenging Mall Of America’s Gun Policy After Threat:

A Republican state lawmaker says the al-Shabaab threat against the Mall of America means gun holders with permits should be able to take their weapons into the mall.

It currently has a “no guns allowed” policy, with mall officials claiming the entire facility is private property. State Representative Tony Cornish is the chair of the House Public Safety Committee.

He said the Mall of America has interpreted the conceal-and-carry law wrong and he’s going to challenge them on it.

“This is completely ridiculous. The complete opposite of what they should be doing,” Cornish said. “If we’re threatened with an attack, the last thing you want to do is disarm citizens.”

Representative Cornish said the intent was to allow legal weapons in open areas, like malls and mall hallways, while giving individual stores the option to ban them.

Unlike many of our progressive brethren and cistern, Bluestem doesn’t have an issue with carry permits.

Rather, we think that the free speech ban and the gun ban both underscore the fetishization of private property over individual civil liberties, as well as the privatization of public space–in the case of the Mall of America, paid by the public dime.

We suspect that some among the Black Lives Matter movement and the gun rights movement might not see themselves as sharing a common cause in their separate disputes with the property management teams at MOA. 

More’s the pity on that.

While Representative Cornish is using threats of terrorism to push his preferred civil liberty, we have to wonder what made him wait. He might have joined hands earlier with the BLM-Minneapolis movement.  While as a retired police chief and a career law enforcement officer, he might not have agreed with the message Black Lives Matter espouses, the state supreme court decision that restricted that movement is the basis for the restriction of his own civil liberties as well.

Update: Jim Romenesko reports that the Mall isn’t much fond of press access either: Mall of America security tells St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter she’s not allowed in the place. h/tip Jeff Kolb.