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Mall of America to Native Americans: Happy New Year, You're Under Arrest

"Discrimination" was behind a pair of New Year's Eve arrests at the sprawling Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota according to organizers of a Native American group called "Idle No More".

Patricia Shepard and Reyna Crow arrests came exactly one year after last year's New Year's Eve Idle No More round dance at the Mall, in which nearly a thousand Native people and allies flooded the vestibule near the entrance to Sears, drumming and dancing in a circle.

The Idle No More movement originated among Native tribes in Canada at the end of 2012 in response to the Jobs and Growth Act, which reduced the requirements for privatizing Native-owned land. The Mall of America is owned by Triple Five Group, a Canadian company.

On the Triple Five Group website , the company touts "exciting services and opportunities to First Nations in Canada and the Native Tribes of America." The webpage goes on to list its programs, which include "development of casinos, residential commercial and industrial — on or off reservation," "Exploration and development of mineral resources" and "exploration and production of oil and gas."

Plans were in the works from several Minnesota-based Native groups to hold another Idle No More event at the Mall this New Year's, but Shepard and Crow — along with other Native leaders in the community — recently received letters from the Mall of America threatening them with arrest if another event took place. "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 stated.

At a press conference held outside the Mall at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Crow called the letter discriminatory.

"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 said.

According to KARE11, the Mall of America says it has allowed planned Native American ceremonies in the mall before, but those with Idle No More feel they were treated differently.

"My heart is really hurting. I don't think we're meant to treat each other like this," said Carrie Chesnik who drove from Green Bay to support the Idle No More group.

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