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    Friday, May 17, 2024

    Black Lives Matter rally disrupts flights, traffic in Minneapolis

    In this Dec. 21, 2015, photo, Mall of America attorney Susan Gaertner speaks to the media surrounded by Black Lives Matter members after a hearing at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis. A judge ruled Tuesday that several local Black Lives Matter organizers cannot demonstrate at the Mall of America on the busy shopping day before Christmas Eve, but she said she couldn’t stop others from attending the protest. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Protesters blocked access to a terminal and caused significant holiday traffic delays around Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Wednesday after staging a Black Lives Matter rally that also briefly shut down part of the nation's largest mall.

    Several people were arrested at the airport, where officials said access to one of two terminals was blocked and causing backups on nearby roads. Two security checkpoints were closed for about 45 minutes, causing some flights to be delayed, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said.

    Protesters took a light-rail train to the airport from the Mall of America, where hundreds of demonstrators started the rally to draw attention to a recent police shooting of a black man in Minneapolis.

    Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday afternoon that the moving protest was creating a "very, very dangerous situation," and he urged protesters to stop blocking access to part of the airport.

    The governor questioned the need for such a demonstration, noting federal and state investigations are ongoing into the death of Jamar Clark, who was fatally shot by Minneapolis police responding to an assault complaint. Dayton said releasing video of officers' altercation with Clark could jeopardize the investigations.

    About 500 protesters initially gathered at the Mall of America early Wednesday afternoon, then abruptly walked out while chanting, "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" Some protesters then went to a nearby light-rail train station that allowed quick access to the airport a few miles away.

    About 80 stores temporarily closed their gates, kiosks were covered and even Santa left his sleigh shortly before protesters gathered at the massive shopping district on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Numerous signs were posted on mall property, saying no protests were allowed — including a long message on a screen in a central rotunda between two Christmas trees.

    That didn't deter 67-year-old Minneapolis resident Art Seratoff.

    "They talk about this demonstration as being disruptive," Seratoff said. "If I think about an unemployment rate in the African-American community three times the white unemployment rate, that's disruptive."

    Four people were arrested for trespassing or disorderly conduct during the mall protest, according to local police.

    A similar demonstration at the Mall of America last December drew hundreds of demonstrators angry over the absence of charges following the police killings of unarmed black men in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri. Stores in the mall had to close, and dozens of people were arrested.

    The massive retail center in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington houses an amusement park and more than 500 shops spread across four floors, attracting shoppers from around the globe.

    Neither mall officials nor Bloomington police said what security measures were put in place to prepare for the protest, though special event staff searched bags at every mall entrance before the rally. Security guards cordoned off parts of the central rotunda, and officers from several cities patrolled inside.

    The mall had sought a court order blocking the planned protest. A judge on Tuesday barred three organizers from attending the demonstration, but said she didn't have the power to block unidentified protesters from showing up.

    Kandace Montgomery, one of three organizers barred by the judge's order, said the group wasn't deterred. She said the retail mecca was the perfect venue for the demonstration to pressure authorities involved in the investigation of Clark's death to release video footage.

    "When you disrupt their flow of capital ... they actually start paying attention," she said. "That's the only way that they'll hear us."

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