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Rumors of protest prompts Rushmore Mall to close

Lt. Andy Becker of the Rapid City Police Department talks with a group of people who claim...
Lt. Andy Becker of the Rapid City Police Department talks with a group of people who claim they were at the Rushmore Mall Monday morning to protect it from a possible demonstration. (KOTA TV) (KOTA)
Published: Jun. 1, 2020 at 2:45 PM CDT
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Rumors that violence related to nationwide protests will spread to Rapid City prompted the Rushmore Mall to close about noon Monday.

"We are closing the mall now to take every precaution for the safety and well-being of our shoppers and tenants," a mall statement read.

This follows the arrival of about 20 people who said they were there to protect businesses from possible rioting and looting; similar to what happened in Sioux Falls Sunday night.

Sioux Falls police were attacked and property was destroyed following a demonstration, one of dozens across the country following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

After the riot, Gov. Kristi Noem called out 70 members from the Army and Air National Guard to help keep the peace.

"There is no one in the country who disagrees with the sentiments of the peaceful protest that happened earlier in the day but with the sentiments that were expressed late last night is where we find contention and disagreement and will not allow it to continue in South Dakota into the future," Noem said in a news conference Monday.

"Today, the conversation isn't about the peaceful protest. It's about the violence that happened last night; and violence will not be tolerated in South Dakota."

There were posts peppered across social media about groups planning on protesting in other South Dakota cities. In the Rushmore Mall incident, Rapid City police talked with the group that reportedly belonged to a private anti-protester Facebook group.

The Facebook group members claimed that a larger group of people protesting the death of George Floyd were being bused in to Rapid City. They also claimed that these protesters aimed to loot and destroy an unknown number of businesses within the Mall.

At least two of the men claimed to carry concealed weapons when asked by reporters.

RCPD responded to their presence with pleas for peace. RCPD Lt. Andy Becker created a dialogue with the anti-protesters to convince them to allow officers to handle the situation. The group eventually agreed to the officer’s pleas and dispersed.

It is currently unknown if or when any of the alleged looters will arrive in Rapid City.

The governor said because of other planned protests that Guard members are pre-staged in certain areas and could be moved if necessary. However, Noem declined to say where they are staged.

The governor, during her news conference, made it a point several times that protests are a right to be protected.

"We believe firmly and will always defend the right for freedom of speech and people's ability to protest," Noem said. However ... "That changed last night and I think South Dakotans got a real glimpse of what can happen when (people) step over the line and that becomes violent."