Mall of America officials said Wednesday they intend to drop $40,000 in restitution claims against 11 Black Lives Matter protesters charged in the December demonstration that took over the mall.
At least 1,500 protesters gathered Dec. 20 as part of a nationwide wave of demonstrations following grand jury decisions not to indict police officers who killed unarmed black men in New York and Missouri.
Mall of America executives want future proceedings to focus on the criminal charges, mall attorney Marsh Halberg said.
"The issue in this case should continue to focus on the property rights of the land owner," he said. "MOA does not want a potential restitution claim distracting from that point."
Bloomington city attorney Sandra Johnson said the mall and the city are still pursuing trespass and disorderly conduct charges against the protesters who pleaded not guilty in March.
The city is also keeping its restitution claims of $25,000 for extra security and mutual aid police that responded to the demonstration, Johnson added.
Black Lives Matter members say MOA's request to drop restitution claims is a step in the right direction and they hope it will lead to a dismissal of criminal charges as well.
The group will continue working with the public to end racial disparities in Minnesota, said Nekima Levy-Pounds, a University of St. Thomas law professor who's an advisor to Black Lives Matter as well as a defendant in the case.
"We are thankful to our community for standing up to MOA and to the city of Bloomington in solidarity with us," she said in a statement. "The public supports our stance of advocating for equal justice under law for unarmed African-Americans killed at the hands of police and exercising our constitutional right to declare that Black Lives Matter."
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