Mall of America / Aine

December 21, 2015; MPR News

In Minnesota, the Mall of America is suing eight people associated with the Black Lives Matter movement to get a restraining order that would prevent the group from encouraging others by social media to protest on its premises on December 23rd. It further demands that the group post statements announcing affirmatively that the protest has been called off.

Wednesday, of course, is the day before Christmas Eve, and thus one of the busiest days of the shopping year.

Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds calls the move “unprecedented, having a large corporation attempting to restrict freedom of speech and expression on the part of Black Lives Matter organizers by dictating what notices they have to put forward on social media and what notices they have to remove.”

Black Lives Matter organizer Miski Noor said, “We’re going to keep fighting for Jamar,” referring to 24-year-old Jamar Clark, who was shot and killed by police in November. Clark’s death sparked traffic-blocking protests and the takeover of a police station. Thousands associated with BLM protested the death of Michael Brown at the Mall last year; dozens of arrests were made, and charges against the protest’s organizers lingered for almost a year before they were eventually dismissed.

“All of our demonstrations have been peaceful and nonviolent; they do not need to be met with a hyper-militarized response,” Levy-Pounds said. “I would be surprised if a court of law upholds the Mall of America’s request that Black Lives Matter remove any and all postings from social media and that they affirmatively post that the event has been canceled or face jail time,” Levy-Pounds said. “That is absolutely ludicrous.”

But the decision may hang on the public or private nature of the Mall, which has in previous court decisions been determined to be private property and not a public square.

The mall’s request to the judge to not only bar the protest organizers from social media posts but require them to make specific posts does bring up some First Amendment issues. Attorney Steve Aggergaard says, “What the private entity is doing is asking for essentially the machinery of the government to kick in, and not to side with the mall necessarily, but to step in and say that the power of the courts, the power of law enforcement, is to be invoked here to protect private property, and most notably to restrict or somehow manage online communication. And that is pretty remarkable.”—Ruth McCambridge