BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Two women were arrested at the Mall of America after they and others were trying to perform a traditional tribal dance in the rotunda area.
The women were part of the group Idle No More, which according to the group's website is an organization that brings attention to indigenous rights and environmental causes.
The group called the arrests discriminatory.
"All we wanted to do is have the same equal access to the mall as other flash mobs have been here," said Patricia Shepard, of Idle No More Minnesota, who was one of the women arrested.
Last year, the group participated in what is called a "Round Dance" inside the mall in part to bring attention to Canadian policies they felt were discriminatory toward the native people there.
Mall officials described the situation as "extremely disruptive."
Idle No More planned to do something similar Tuesday, but told KARE 11 it wasn't a protest but a positive celebration.
"It's a friendship dance," said Reyna Crow of Idle No More – Duluth, who was the other woman arrested.
But mall security did not let them through. Police say Shepard and Crow were arrested after they refused to leave. A spokesperson says the women have since been released.
"We don't allow protests in Mall of America and haven't in 21 years," said Maureen Bausch, Executive Vice President of Business Development. "It clearly did not have to happen."
Bausch says MOA officials warned the group repeatedly they could not hold the event this year, a warning they say they gave last year, as well.
"If you look at the website for Idle no More, it is an activist group. It is a protest, it is a demonstration," said Bausch.
But the group's attorney believes the group should have been allowed in, just as other flash mob groups have been in the past.
"They're not allowed to discriminate. So they're treating this Native American group differently," said attorney Jordan Kushner.
But the Mall of America says it has allowed planned Native American ceremonies in the mall before, including a ceremony with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community every year.
Still those with Idle No More feel they were treated differently Tuesday and may take legal action.
"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.