Letter re: Mall of America Black Lives Matter Protesters

[UPDATE: November 10, 2015] http://www.startribune.com/judge-dismisses-charges-against-black-lives-matter-organizers-of-moa-protest/344894812/

On February 4, 2015, the NLG sent the letter below to Bloomington, MN City Attorney Sandra H Johnson, calling for the “immediate dismissal of all criminal charges and other retributive actions” against the 10 activists arrested on December 20, 2014 at a peaceful #BlackLivesMatter event at the Mall of America.

As of the time of this writing, 11 protesters, known online as the #MOA11, have plead not guilty to six misdemeanor charges including trespass, disorderly conduct, and aiding and abetting trespass. They face up to two years in prison.

#BlackLivesMatter protesters continue to support and demonstrate on behalf of the #MOA11, with hundreds gathering outside the courthouse during the protesters’ pre-trial court date on March 10, as well as calling calling for a national Mall of America boycott.

Longtime NLG Minnesota member Bruce Nestor is one of the attorneys representing the protesters pro bono.

Their next court date is set for May 1, 2015.

February 4, 2015

Sandra H. Johnson, Bloomington City Attorney
1800 West Old Shakopee Road
Bloomington, Minnesota 55431-3027

Dear Ms. Johnson: The National Lawyers Guild calls for the immediate dismissal of all criminal charges and other retributive actions against the ten activists arrested for exercising their right of free speech on December 20, 2014 at the Mall of America during a peaceful event.

The failure of the grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City to bring any criminal charges against the police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have understandably spurred widespread protests around the country. The demonstration at the Mall of America organized by “Black Lives Matter” was an attempt to call attention to the epidemic of young African-American men being shot and killed by police officers and the failure of the criminal justice system to respond in any meaningful way to these police-involved shootings. Rather than protecting the First Amendment rights of demonstrators, Government agencies encourage abuses by their inaction and use repressive tactics against people engaged in free speech, fighting for social change.

Throughout history, the law has often been used to oppress people with dissenting views. We are reminded of governmental surveillance, infiltration, and counterintelligence programs aimed at lawful activities of civil rights and antiwar protesters. It is particularly outrageous and frightening that Bloomington police infiltrated this peaceful group, participated in their planning meetings and events, and then singled out those they deemed organizers for arrest. By making enemies of those who speak out, lawenforcement agencies engage in unnecessary, costly, and dangerous practices.

The National Lawyers Guild has worked for nearly 80 years to challenge governmental infringement of the rights of individuals. We stand in solidarity with those arrested for their participation in organizing and staging the demonstration and condemn the abusive tactics employed, calculated to stifle dissent and silence voices crying out for change. Such governmental intrusions are contrary to the basic principles upon which this country was founded. We are all less free today for these politically repressive measures.

Sincerely, Azadeh Shahshahani
NLG President