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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Black Lives Matter protesters vowed on Monday to demonstrate at the Mall of America on the busy shopping day before Christmas Eve, regardless of whether a judge grants the mall's request to bar them from doing so.
Miski Noor, one of the organizers, said after a hearing Monday about the mall's request for a temporary restraining order that the protest would take place Wednesday, no matter what.
"We're not going to be canceling the protest," she told reporters after the hearing in Hennepin County District Court. "Us not showing up and us not speaking would be the mall winning."
The protesters want to demonstrate at the country's biggest mall to draw attention to the Nov. 15 police killing of a black Minneapolis man, Jamar Clark, and to ramp up the pressure on investigators to release video of the shooting. Authorities say they won't release it while state and federal investigations are ongoing.
The mall wants to avoid the type of disruption caused by a Christmas-time demonstration last year, when thousands of protesters angry over the absence of charges involving police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City forced the temporary closure of mall stores. Dozens of people were arrested.
Judge Karen Janisch indicated that she could rule on the restraining order request within hours.
Police say Clark, 24, died during a struggle with officers. Others, though, say Clark was handcuffed at the time. Authorities have declined to release video of the shooting while state and federal investigations are underway.
Protest organizers are seeking a special prosecutor to be appointed in Clark's death rather than have a grand jury decide whether to charge the officers involved in his death. In addition they want federal terrorism charges to be brought against four men who shot at protesters outside a Minneapolis police precinct last month, injuring five.
Beyond barring the protest, the mall's request would also require organizers to remove posts with plans of the demonstration from social media and to send out notifications that the event has been canceled. The mall, which is privately owned and doesn't allow protests, contends that another demonstration would mean more lost sales for its vendors.
After attempting to directly dissuade Black Lives Matter from following through last week, mall attorney Susan Gaertner said a restraining order would make it clear that the mall — privately owned property — prohibits demonstrations. She repeatedly stressed that the mall's opposition to Black Lives Matter was not about their message, but about the group's chosen venue and the potential for disrupting last-minute holiday shopping.
"The Mall of America is no more an appropriate place for a demonstration than it would be around my dinner table," she said.
Jordan Kushner, an attorney for several Black Lives Matter organizers named in the mall's lawsuit, called the mall's demands unconstitutional.
"They could tell people to stay away from their property, but they cannot tell people what to say or what not to say," Kushner said. "It's trying to control their speech."
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