One organizer of the Black Lives Matter demonstration said the Mall of America was used as “a decoy” to start a protest that swiftly moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and blocked a terminal on a busy holiday travel day. Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said after more than 100 protesters gathered inside and blocked roads leading to the airport Wednesday, access to one of two terminals was closed.
Hogan said the protest caused some flight delays but no cancellations. Initially protesters hoping to draw attention to the police shooting of a black man last month in Minneapolis had described in advance their plans to target the mall, but not the airport.
They started at the shopping mecca in suburban Bloomington, where there was a heavy police presence, then took a light-rail train to the airport. Black Lives Matter organizer Miski Noor, who protested at the airport said “The mall was a decoy. I think it was really effective.”
Police said a total of 15 people were arrested at both sites, mostly for trespassing or obstruction of justice. No injuries or property damage were reported and officials said that traffic at the airport was back to normal by Wednesday evening.
However about 80 stores at the mall were closed for about an hour as officers escorted protesters off the property. Gov. Mark Dayton questioned the need for such a demonstration, noting that federal and state investigations were ongoing into the death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark, who was fatally shot by Minneapolis police responding to an assault complaint.
The governor also said releasing video of officers’ altercation with Clark, as demanded by protesters, could jeopardize the investigations. Before protesters gathered at the mall, stores temporarily closed their gates, kiosks were covered and even Santa left his sleigh.
Numerous signs were also posted saying no protests were allowed. That didn’t deter Art Seratoff, a 67-year-old protester from Minneapolis. Seratoff said “They talk about this demonstration as being disruptive. If I think about an unemployment rate in the African-American community three times the white unemployment rate, that’s disruptive.”
About 500 protesters briefly gathered at the mall before abruptly walking out while chanting, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” The crowd then headed to the light-rail station and onto the airport.
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