MOA spying must be curtailed now

The Mall of America used highly inappropriate measures to spy on Black Lives Matter protesters. This included making a fake Facebook account to befriend organizers and obtain their personal information and photos, according to a report last week from the Intercept, a security news outlet started by the journalists who first published classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden.While it is understandable that the mall is pressing charges against the protesters for illegally assembling on private property, these so-called security measures allude to a disturbing culture that breaches acceptable ethical boundaries.The Facebook account, which carried the name Nikki Larson, was reportedly created in 2009 and had liked pages involved with Ferguson activists, a labor union, Occupy Minneapolis and anti-police brutality movements, the Intercept reported.The Mall of America has gone as far as creating its own counterterrorism unit called Risk Assessment and Mitigation, which used aggressive tactics in attempts to boost security.The mall is no doubt a potential target for terrorists, and security must be taken seriously. But MOA officials have proven they will go too far in this endeavor. The FBI once questioned a Pakistani-American for simply leaving his cellphone at a food court table in the mall, an incident that alludes to serious racial bias.Black Lives Matter protesters couldn’t be further from terrorists, but the mall seems to be treating them as such. The Mall of America should immediately curb its extreme measures in surveilling for rather mild protests. Continue Reading

Mall of America v Black Lives Matter: The Difference Between Civil Rights and Free Speech Laws

The Mall of America (MOA) is private property.  So are the other shopping malls in Minnesota.  One may not agree with that legal fact but that is the law in this state.  This means that owners of shopping malls have a right to deny the public access to their property for the purposes of exercising free speech rights but that does not mean they can deny them access on the basis of race.  This distinction seems to be lost in the dispute regarding the trespass prosecution in the “Black Lives Matter” case. Continue Reading

The Inequality Debate Needs to be Careful about Scale

Two weeks ago, the Atlantic published a short (and facile) post called “the Miracle of Minneapolis” that (as is the way of media circles in insecure places) launched itself right onto the forefront of the Twin Cities social media scene. And, with good reason, the article re-kindledconversations about racial disparities that have been going on for years. Before I dive into my argument, I want to outline two crucial caveats. First, I love that we’re discussing racial disparities with increasing frequency these days. We have ignored the way that our cities have created wealth only for some (white) people, and made it almost impossible for others. The Fair Housing Act was only passed in the 60s, which isn’t very long ago, and we need to always remember how our cities treat people differently depending on race, class, and culture. Continue Reading

Professors Join Fray Over Mall Protest Prosecutions- Bloomington Responds

University professors and researchers are joining the call for City of Bloomington prosecutor Sandra Johnson to drop charges against organizers of a “black lives matter” protest at the Mall of America in December. The protest was in response to highly publicized police violence against blacks in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City as well as some cases in Minnesota.117 university professors and researchers based mostly in the Twin Cities metro, but some from greater Minnesota signed an open letter calling the plan to charge the organizers “political persecution.”“We are deeply disappointed in the City of Bloomington’s decision to use its considerable power to actually add to the obstacles that are blocking the movement toward a better, more peaceful, and more just society. We urge the City of Bloomington to drop all charges against those who participated in the recent peaceful protest at the Mall of America.” (Full text of the letter is below)The letter comes a day after more than 100 faith leaders signed a similar open letter.Eleven people will appear in court on March 10th for their arraignment on charges ranging from trespassing to disorderly conduct for their attendance at the peaceful demonstration which included nearly 3,000 individuals on December 20, 2014 at the Mall of America.Bloomington City Attorney Johnson issued her own open letter on Tuesday responding to the faith leaders. In it she said “the criminal justice system must look at the conduct not the content of the messages behind the illegal conduct. To approach protest or demonstration cases any other way would result in viewpoint discrimination based upon the popularity of the message with the prosecutor and with the community. Continue Reading

City Of Bloomington? 100+ Faith Leaders Want A Word With You

The City of Bloomington’s insistence on prosecuting organizers of a “Black Lives Matter” protest at the Mall of America is getting more pushback from Minnesota’s religious leaders.A letter signed by more than 100 faith leaders asks City Attorney Sandra Johnson to have a community-wide dialog about race instead of prosecuting people.“The energy you have put into this aggressive prosecution needs to be redirected to a community-wide effort toward open dialogue between our justice system and those who do not receive equal and fair treatment and protection from our current system,” says the letter. “We would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss these matters.”Eleven people are charged with crimes ranging from trespassing to disorderly conduct for their attendance at the peaceful demonstration which included nearly 3,000 individuals on December 20, 2014 at the Mall of America. The protest was part of a larger nationwide demonstration reacting to police violence against African-Americans.This is the second letter faith leaders have sent to the city. The previous letter was signed by 41 clergy and also asked for the city to stop its prosecutions and invited the city to charge them too. Full text of the letterBlack Lives Matter Minneapolis Faith Leaders Letter of SupportDear Sandra Johnson,We, the undersigned, members of the clergy in the city of Bloomington, write to express our support of the Black Lives Matter movement. As a matter of background, on January 20, 2015, individuals working with the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis group were invited to present to the Bloomington Conference of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Minneapolis Area Synod at our monthly gathering, at which some of the undersigned were present. A representative from the synod office was also in attendance.We did not know what to expect when we invited this group to meet with us. Continue Reading

Mall of America, where civil liberties go to buy

[See original post here: http://www.bluestemprairie.com/bluestemprairie/2015/02/mall-of-america-where-civil-liberties-go-to-buy.html]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. Continue Reading

Fifty shades of white

Monday’s MLK DAY protest march in Minnesota, which included a four-hour game of chicken between the 2-3,000 Black Lives Matter marchers and multiple ranks of police and troopers, including many on Continue Reading

BEHIND THE STORY | Paying for public servants

I thought law enforcement officials were supposed to be public servants. Like teachers, police and other law enforcement serve the citizens of a local area and are paid by taxpayer dollars. The latest threat to ten organizers of the December Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America, however, purports a different view. By charging these organizers with the cost of riot police and extra security ordered by the Mall of America, Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson shifts our relationship with the police to extreme anarchist libertarianism, where citizens are individually charged for the “use” of these public servants, even when they didn’t request them.Imagine if parents were sent a bill any time their child had to stay after school for detention, or needed extra attention from their teacher. The idea is absurd, of course. Continue Reading

Native Lives Matter: A Solution to Police Violence in Indian Country

“Black Lives Matter!” The chant has echoed through America’s streets since Aug. 9, the day unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. The Brown case focused attention on longstanding problems in black communities: racial profiling and police violence against young black men.The perceived lack of justice in these and many other cases sparked major demonstrations, including a Dec. 20 rally at the Mall of America that drew more than 3,000 protesters.But as millions rallied around the cause of human rights for African-Americans, many Indigenous people wonder if America thinks their lives matter. For every Michael Brown, for every Eric Garner, they say, there is a victim of police violence in Indian Country whose name you probably don’t know.“It’s imperative to understand that this issue is not just about black people and white people. Continue Reading

Bringing the ‘Model Minority Mutiny’ home

This fall, in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown, and in the face of the mounting Black body count at the hands of law enforcement, ChangeLab put out a call for a Model Minority Mutiny. We called on Asian Americans to stand up against the model minority myth as an act of self-liberation from a humiliating, trivializing, and dehumanizing stereotype that has, for too long, been used as a justification for labeling Black communities as “problem” minorities, and excluding and criminalizing Black people.

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