On May 1st, the 36 people will go to court for a pre-trial hearing, on charges relating to the Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America on December 20th. For one defendant, though, the punishment began before the protest was over.
Tadele Gebremedhin was a worker at the Microsoft Store at Mall of America. It was a well-paying job, and Tadele was good at it- he knew every product in the store and was one of the location’s most valued employees. All that changed, however, during the police crackdown against the Black Lives Matter demonstration. Tadele was arrested during the protest while trying to return to his job from his lunch break. Served with a trespass order that forbids him from entering the Mall, he has been unable to go to work since. Despite being promised that he could receive an exception from the trespass order so that he could go to work, all his attempts to get the exception have been ignored or rejected by the Mall. Tadele has spent the last four a half months unemployed.
Tadele says that he never intended to take part in the protest, much less be arrested during it.
“Protesters started arriving at the mall at 2 PM, which was the same time I took my hourly lunch break.” said Tadele in a written statement. “From the beginning of my break my intentions were to grab lunch and purchase a hat with one of my co-workers.”
During his break, however, the rotunda and parts of the second floor began to fill with protesters and lines of riot police. Tadele found it difficult to return to work as the Mall went into a ‘lockdown’.
“Around 2:30 PM … my co-worker and I started walking in a circle on the second floor but then we were told to leave The Mall of America by officials even though we worked there.”, Tadele said. “We informed the mall officials and the Bloomington police that we were not part of the protest- but, me personally I do support the protests, as it is my right to support something I believe in.”
At this point, Tadele and his coworker tried to explain to the police that they needed to return to their job. Their break was 20 minutes from being over, and the two wanted to get back to work on time.
“I personally approached one of the officers and asked if I could go back to my job but he completely ignored me.”, said Tadele. “I turned around and asked another official the same question with my work badge but I was denied again. I tried this approach for the last time–but the last thing I remember was six Bloomington officers jumping on me yelling, “Arrest him!””.
After being tackled and handcuffed by the six officers, Tadele was taken into a network of tunnels away from the publicly traveled part of the mall. There he was handcuffed and made to sit on the floor against a concrete wall with other people who had been detained. Emmett Doyle, a local IWW member who was arrested while acting as a marshal, said he met Tadele in those tunnels. They were put in the same police van together.
“He kept asking to speak to his boss, so he could at least tell his boss where he was”, Emmett reported. “But, the cops almost completely ignored him.”
According to Emmett, Tadele was not the only non-protester profiled and targeted by the police.
“In our van there were five men, and only two of us had been involved in the protest”, said Emmett. “The other three- Tadele included- had been caught in the police sweep. All three were black and Hispanic men who had been near the protest and got targeted by the crackdown”.
After being directed into the police van, Tadele and the other people arrested were driven into a parking lot in Bloomington out of walking distance of the Mall. The only directions they were given were to the nearest Blue Line station. It was after dark when Tadele was released, on a December night with a sweater and no coat.
Like the other people arrested, Tadele was given a trespass paper saying that he would be arrested if he entered the Mall of America again for a year. However, Tadele says that before he was released, he was told by the officers present that he would receive an exemption to allow him to work.
“I was promised that I would receive a permit from The Mall of America to continue working at the Microsoft store.” Tadele said. “I guess that wasn’t the case because the next day I was denied for the permit and ever since then I have been jobless for about 4 ½ months now. This has been very hard for me, I have been struggling both mentally and financially”
One other MoA worker was arrested while trying to get to work during the protests. She has received the exception. Tadele, however, has requested it repeatedly and not received it. After it became apparent that he would not be able to return to work, Tadele resigned from the Microsoft Store. He reports that his supervisor and the company want him back, and even offered to transfer him to California. He couldn’t make the move, however, due to a lack of funds.
Sign the petition: Let Tadele Return to Work!