Trespass charges against Black Lives Matter Mall of America protesters dismissed
Minneapolis, MN – Attorneys appeared in court, August 5, before Judge Peter Cahill for a status conference in the #BlackLivesMatter demonstration case. Notably, Bloomington Prosecutor Sandra Johnson has dropped all substantive trespassing charges against the alleged organizers of the Black Lives Matter demonstration. The move came on the heels of motions to dismiss that were filed by lead attorneys Jordan Kushner and Bruce Nestor, who are representing 10 of 11 individuals identified as ‘ringleaders’ of the Black Lives Matter gathering at the Mall of America last December.
Both Kushner and Nestor argued that the Mall of America asked demonstrators to “disperse” rather than to leave the property all together on the day of the demonstration. The dismissal of charges appears to confirm the validity of this argument challenging the trespass charges.
Attorney, defendant and NAACP Minneapolis President Nekima Levy-Pounds says, “It is unfortunate that the Bloomington city attorney is choosing to continue to pursue charges against alleged organizers of the Mall of America demonstration. This proves what we've said all along: These charges are simply unfounded and are being leveraged as an attempt to intimidate and silence dissent. We will continue to press for the remainder of these trumped-up charges to be dropped until justice is served.”
Levy-Pounds added, “I was initially charged with eight misdemeanor counts and now three of my charges have since been dismissed. Four of my five remaining charges are for ‘aiding and abetting,’ as opposed to substantive offenses. It’s sad to think how much time and money is being wasted by the city of Bloomington ‘to make an example’ out of us; especially in light of the seriousness of police shootings of unarmed black people in this country.”
Defense attorney Bruce Nestor stated, “It is evident that the Mall of America failed to explicitly demand that demonstrators leave the property during the Black Lives Matter demonstration in December. The large monitors simply read, ‘We expect all participants to disperse at this time.’ Under the law, there is a clear distinction between orders to disperse, which means to spread out, versus demanding that someone physically leave the property. Thus, it would have been a gross waste of taxpayer dollars for prosecutors to continue to pursue frivolous trespassing charges in this case.”
“The majority of substantive charges against the alleged organizers have already been dismissed in this case by prosecutors. The remaining charges are mostly aiding and abetting charges, which raises significant questions about the purpose behind these prosecutions,” Nestor continued.
Lena K. Gardner of Black Lives Matter added, “Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson is sending the message that if you are white and you show up on ‘private property’ in Bloomington to protest the killing of a lion, you’re safe, as we saw last week. But if you show up at the Mall of America to protest the killing of unarmed African Americans by police, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and treated like a criminal. This blatant hypocrisy should not be tolerated within our system of justice. Black Lives Matter demonstrators deserve the same respect and deference as others who protest perceived injustices.”