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Parts of the massive Mall of America were temporarily closed Saturday following a demonstration against racial profiling and police brutality at one of the nation’s largest shopping centers. A large crowd gathered in the Bloomington, Minnesota, mall rotunda just before 2 p.m. local time and staged a "die-in," despite warnings from mall officials that the protest was not permitted and could lead to arrests.
A similar protest occurred in the food court of the also-massive King of Prussia Mall in suburban Philadelphia Saturday, organizers said.
An hour after the protests began, and after many in the crowd had already left the rotunda, the mall said on Twitter that some areas of the shopping center "are temporarily closed for the safety our guests due to an unauthorized protest," but most of it was open.
Demonstrators at the Mall of America shouted "Hands up, don’t shoot!", referring to the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and "Black people cannot breathe, while we’re on our shopping sprees," referring to the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York.
Mall of America officials had warned that protests weren’t allowed on private property and said in statement Saturday they were "extremely disappointed" that organizers chose to ignore their policy. "It's clear from their actions that these political activists were more concerned about making a political statement and creating a media event than they were about the safety of others," the mall said in the statement. Officials said earlier that violating those policies would result in removal and possible arrest.
After several warnings that the protest was not authorized, many in the crowd left the rotunda, according to a reporter from NBC station KARE. Police in helmets were seen blocking off sections of the mall, but it is unclear if any arrests were made.
Protest organizer Mica Grimm told NBC affiliate KARE that the goal of the gathering is "to show people that this isn't going to be the same Christmas for a lot of families because they've lost loved ones."
Meanwhile, more than 180 people staged an event with a similar message at the King of Prussia Mall in suburban Philadelphia. "There will not be business as usual this Christmas. Not as we watch case after case of police brutality against black people in this country go without justice," said a post on the Facebook event called the "No Justice, No Peace Die In." The mall said in a statement that it does not allow protests on mall property, according to NBC Philadelphia.
Protesters gathered in the suburban mall's food court at around 5 p.m. The group dropped to the floor at 5:15 p.m., 5:25 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.
There were also die-ins at Towson Mall near Baltimore, where about 30 people showed up for a demonstration, and at Park City Center mall in Lancaster, Penn.
Saturday — dubbed "Super Saturday" by retailers — is expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year for the first time in a decade, according to the research firm ShopperTrak.
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