Two Native American women say that they were arrested at the Mall of America in Minnesota on New Year's Day for attempting to have a traditional cultural celebration that the officials interpreted as a protest.
The women, who are part of the activist group Idle No More, have called the mall's action's discriminatory.
"All we wanted to do is have the same equal access to the mall as other flash mobs have been here," Idle No More Minnesota activist Patricia Shepard said after her arrest.
A year ago, Idle Mo Nore had brought attention to the Canadian government's anti-tribal policies by staging a "round dance" inside the mall. Activists said that Canada's Jobs and Growth Act had removed bodies of water from government protection and made it easier to privatize tribal land.
The Mall of America is owned by the Canadian company Triple Five Group, which has pledged to support "development of mineral resources" and "production of oil and gas" on native lands.
Officials at the Mall of America called the 2012 Idle No More event "extremely disruptive" and forbid the activists from staging a similar event on New Year's Day.
Reyna Crow, one of the woman who were arrested, insisted that the demonstration was more about sharing Native American culture than protesting.
"It's a friendship dance," she said.
“Singling out one particular group of people and telling them that they’re not welcome to have a positive family event, a gesture of friendship and healing in the Mall when so many other cultural groups are welcomed is to me absolutely appalling,” Crow explained.
In video posted on YouTube, Crow can be seen entering the mall and being confronted by a security guard.
"The reason I’m asking you to leave this Mall is a result of this event,” the guard says.
"As a result of the press conference on the sidewalk?" Crow asks. "There's no event, I'm on my way to get coffee. So, I'd like you to be factual about what it is that I did that's a problem."
Crow refuses to leave and the security guard orders her to put her hands behind her back. Crow was removed from the mall by Bloomington Police and reportedly charged with trespassing.
In another video, Shepard can be heard crying that officers are hurting her with handcuffs during the arrest.
“You don’t have to squeeze those handcuffs when you’re cutting off my circulation,” she says.
Attorney Jordan Kushner, who is representing Shepard and Crow, called the arrests "disturbing and racist."
“The Mall of America singled this group out because they didn’t appreciate a Native American group having a cultural celebration," he explained.
Kushner said that mall security “violently accosted both of the organizers of the event and then arrested them with the intention of trying to break up any kind of gathering than might happen.”
Mall of America spokesperson Maureen Bausch insisted that protests had never been allowed inside the mall.
"If you look at the website for Idle no More, it is an activist group. It is a protest, it is a demonstration," she said.
(h/t: The Uptake)