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New Year’s Eve Flash Mob Round Dance Plans Spark Arrest Threat From Mall of America

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The organizers of a flash mob round dance to celebrate the second winter of Idle No More at the Mall of America on New Year’s Eve have been threatened with arrest.

On Christmas Eve, Idle No More Duluth founder Reyna Crow received a letter from Mall of America officials.

“It has come to our attention that your group is planning a political protest at Mall of America in connection with Idle No More, a tribal group opposed to recent Canadian legislation,” reads the Mall of America’s letter, which was delivered to Crow by courier.

“Any attempt by your group to conduct a protest is a violation of MOA policies and will subject your group to removal from MOA property, and potential arrest by tthe City of Bloomington police department,” the letter read. “Although your group attempted a gathering last year on MOA property, a similar attempt will not be tolerated and we will utilize additional actions to prohibit any such gathering, including trespassing the organizers of the protest.”

Among other egregious effects, “The Idle No More group caused disruption to our customers, tenants and employees, and resulted in a significant commitment of time and resources by our security and management teams,” the letter continued. “Mall of America is a private commercial retail center, and we prohibit all forms of protest, demonstration and public debate, including political activity aimed at organizing political or social groups.”

As far as Idle No More Minnesota’s Facebook Page is concerned, the celebration of the second winter of the movement, which began as a series of teach-ins at the end of 2012, is still on.

“The characterization of the Round Dance as a protest is not only incorrect, it is insulting”, said Crow in a statement on Christmas Day. “If the Idle No More flash mob Round Dance that was held there last year is a ‘protest,’ so are the Christmas carols and the other flash mob events that have been held there.”

RELATED: Idle No More, Indeed

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Idle No More began at the end of 2012 as a series of teach-ins conducted by four women, and it was low-key until Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence began a hunger strike. This brought national and then international attention to the movement, which morphed into a broader attempt to show the world the ways in which so-called indigenous issues are everyone’s issues.

RELATED: One Year Later: From Idle No More to Elsipogtog

The letter’s characterization of the round dance as a protest was completely wrong, Crow wrote in an editorial in the Duluth News Tribune last January.

“A flash mob is a large group of people who gather, ideally in an instant, to perform a unified action in a public place, often a song or dance. In this case, participants are performing a round dance,” she wrote.

“While it is true that INM has organized around gravely serious causes, … the characterization of the round dances as ‘protests’ is not just incorrect, it’s insulting,” Crow continued. “Not understanding is one thing. Telling a substantial segment of the community that it is unwelcome to make use of the mall—which does seem to gladly function as a sort of public square when it comes to Santa Claus and Christmas trees—to hold a brief and joyous dance with song reflecting traditional Anishinaabeg cultural values—is a message this community should be ashamed of.”

Indeed, the four women who founded Idle No More and first coined the hash tag—Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdam, Sheelah McLean and Nina Wilson—were named by Foreign Policy magazine as among the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013. 

RELATED: Idle No More Founders Make Foreign Policy Magazine's 'Leading Global Thinkers' List

Disruption or celebration? Perhaps the video below of last year’s Idle No More Mall of America flash mob round dance will shed some light.