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Duluth women arrested at Mall of America incident

Two Duluth women were arrested at the Mall of America in Bloomington on New Year's Eve while attempting to stage an American Indian round dance at the mall.

Two Duluth women were arrested at the Mall of America in Bloomington on New Year's Eve while attempting to stage an American Indian round dance at the mall.

The women -- Patricia Shepard and Reyna Crow - are part of the Indian rights group Idle No More, which has conducted events to protest state wolf hunts, mining projects and other issues, but said Tuesday's event was not a protest.

The women were arrested after holding a press conference on the sidewalk outside the mall saying they were only attempting to conduct a round dance to usher in good spirits for the New Year.

Crow told the News Tribune Wednesday that she couldn't discuss details of the arrest on recommendation of her attorney. But she said that mall officials refused to accept the round dance as it was explained by organizers as "a dance of renewed relationships, deeply connected to Mother Earth, Medicine Waters and in the spirit of all people of all walks of life joining in one circle of friendship and peace, and certainly not a protest."

Organizers said mall officials had refused to meet with them and said they received letters from Mall of America officials last week threatening them with arrest if they held any unauthorized events at the mall.

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The women were arrested for criminal trespass, booked and released.

Sarah Schmidt, a mall spokeswoman, told the News Tribune that they have a longstanding policy banning political demonstrations and protests on their private property.

"We are extremely disappointed that organizers of Idle No More... chose to ignore our stated policy and repeated reminders that political protests and demonstrations are not allowed on Mall of America property,'' Schmidt said. "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, who came to Mall of America for an afternoon of shopping and family entertainment."

Several local members of Idle No More gathered at the Miller Hill Mall in December, 2012 for a "flash" drum circle and round dance to show solidarity with large Indian protests taking place in Canada over treaty rights and native poverty issues. That event was allowed to proceed and then disperse with no arrests made.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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