MOA protesters plead ‘not guilty’

Eleven members of the group Black Lives Matter pleaded “not guilty” Tuesday to multiple misdemeanor charges, including trespassing and disorderly conduct.

The charges are the result of a Dec. 20 protest held at the Mall of America. Mall authorities forewarned people that they could be arrested for protesting on private property. Before the protest began, Black Lives Matter began using social media to collect money for bail funds.

In addition to Tuesday’s plea, the group decried email communications between Sandra Johnson, the prosecuting attorney for the city of Bloomington, and MOA attorney Kathleen Allen, arguing that these communications are evidence of collusion between private interests and the government.

Johnson dismissed the accusations, saying that her job often requires her to communicate with mall attorneys on issues of contracting, licenses and permits, among other things.

We are unimpressed by this accusation that the emails had “disturbing levels of collusion” between the mall and city attorneys. We feel this claim, like the pre-collected bail funds, are an attempt by certain members of Black Lives Matter to evade punishment.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for protesting racial segregation in Birmingham, Ala., he wrote from city jail that, “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly … and with a willingness to accept the penalty.”

The practitioners of civil disobedience must be willing to accept whatever punishment their actions might incur. This is what distinguishes civil disobedience from mere lawlessness, and it’s what makes civil disobedience such a powerful form of expression.

Lest they endanger the moral aspect of their campaign, therefore, protesters against an unjust law must take care not to act as though the law doesn’t exist. To that end, if the members of Black Lives Matter are found guilty, we hope they accept their punishments with dignity and grace.