Organizers of a group called Black Lives Matter plan to move forward with a protest at the Mall of America Saturday. Mall officials have warned that demonstrators could be arrested — and banned from the mall for one year.
What are the laws regarding the right to assemble in Minnesota?
Where are protesters allowed to assemble?
Protesters can freely assemble on public property.
Before you keep reading ...
MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.
What is considered public property?
Public property is government-owned — but not all government-owned properties have the same free-speech rights, according to attorney Teresa Nelson of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.
The courts consider public parks, streets and sidewalks a public forum — the "town square."
But other public property, where the business of government takes place, is not considered public forums. There are places within those buildings, like the Capitol rotunda, that can be designated public forums.
But aren't places like malls open to the public?
If a place is open to the public, you can access that location. But if you're doing something the owners don't want you to do, and you've been asked to leave and don't, you can be arrested for trespassing.
If a property owner is trying to remove you solely on the basis of something like race or religion, you have a right to remain.
In 1999, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided the case of State v. Wicklund, in which protesters wanted to demonstrate against fur sales, arguing that the Mall of America is essentially main street. The court decided that the Mall of America is a private entity and has the right to exclude.
Attorney Steven Aggergaard explained that a few states, including California, Massachusetts and Colorado, have decided that shopping malls are essentially Main Street, "and you can't privatize Main Street, at least when you're talking about core political speech." But Minnesota is not one of those states.
What if you're wearing clothing with a political message?
A property owner is allowed to exclude you for the clothing you wear, Nelson said, as long as it's not violating civil rights laws (for instance: dress codes that are proxies for racial discrimination).