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Black Lives Matter: The legal issues behind MOA protest

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Emanuel Sellers leads a chant.
Emanuel Sellers, 26, from South Minneapolis led a chant just outside the east doors of the Mall of America. The Black Lives Matter protest took place on Dec. 20, 2014 at the mall.
Jackson Forderer | For MPR News

The Bloomington city attorney charged 10 people last month in the Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America in December.

Black Lives Matter and local civil rights groups have denounced the charges, suggesting their participants are being unfairly singled out. The city attorney is also seeking restitution for the cost of policing the event.

"I think the charges and the nature and number of charges being brought are disturbing," said Bruce Nestor, attorney and member of the Black Lives Matter legal team on MPR News. "But really what's unprecedented is the demand for restitution for the cost of police response and even we've heard in media reports a demand for restitution for the claim that the Mall of America lost profits. It's really trying to make people pay for the right to have free speech."

The protest has led to an ongoing discussion about public versus private space when it comes to access for protesting.

Mica Grimm, a member of Black Lives Matter charged after the Mall of America protest, said the group was not considering that distinction when picking a location.

"Our initial thought process behind the Mall of America protest was that we were doing protests that families couldn't participate in and people with day jobs couldn't participate in," she said. "So really we wanted a space that was easy for Minnesotans to get to, was indoors and was family friendly."

Susan Gaertner, attorney at Gray Plant Mooty and former Ramsey County attorney, said while she supports the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, the state Supreme Court has said that people cannot protest in the Mall of America.

"Whether or not we agree with that, whether or not we think that places as prominent and that has as much public access as the mall, should be considered public property for purposes of protesting... that's a different question," she said.

Gaertner said while she respects Grimm's motivations, there were different motivations stated by other protesters and organizers. While some said they were going for a peaceful gathering, others discussed a focus on making people upset, bothered and disturbed.

Grimm explained what she thinks the movement means when it talks about "disrupting" people through protest:

MPR News Producer Brigitta Greene contributed to this report.