The Mall of America plans to drop its restitution claims against 11 Black Lives Matter protesters charged in a December demonstration, according to multiple reports.
Mall authorities had sought $40,000 in restitution for additional security and other costs incurred during the protest in the mall's rotunda on Dec. 20. The protest was one of many demonstrations that occurred nationwide around the winter holidays last year, responding to recent deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers. The protests, along with the deaths, have continued into 2015. Several demonstrations were held earlier this week, focused on the recent shootings of unarmed black men by police in North Carolina and Oklahoma.
The mall's attorney said they wanted the case's focus to be on the criminal, not civil, charges.
"The issue in this case should continue to focus on the property rights of the land owner," MOA attorney Marsh Halberg told Minnesota Public Radio. "MOA does not want a potential restitution claim distracting from that point."
The city of Bloomington, Minnesota, where the mall is located, still plans to pursue its own restitution claims of $25,000 for overtime costs and extra security against the protesters.
Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson also told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that MOA's decision to drop its restitution claims would have nothing to do with the trespass and disorderly conduct charges against the protesters.
"This has nothing to do with the prosecutions themselves," Johnson said. "To make it very clear, this is not pressuring the city to drop the charges or to do anything else with respect to the current prosecution."
The protesters face six criminal misdemeanor charges, including trespassing, disorderly conduct, and aiding and abetting trespass. All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges; their next court date is scheduled for May 1.
More protesters could face charges as authorities continue their investigation.
In a statement on the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis Facebook page, protesters praised the mall's decision to drop the claims and encouraged Bloomington to do the same.
"We are thankful to our community for standing up to MOA and to the City of Bloomington in solidarity with us," said Nekima Levy-Pounds, an attorney, law professor and one of the 11 protesters. "The Mall of America should do more to stand up for racial justice in our communities and publicly demand that City Attorney Sandra Johnson follow their lead and drop all charges against community members and cease seeking restitution in this case."