Demonstrators held a die-in at the King of Prussia Mall during one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
"Join us the Saturday before Christmas, as we shut down the largest mall on the East Coast," demonstrators wrote on the No Justice No Peace Facebook page. "They can try to gloss over it with the holiday, shove it under the rug, and move on with life. But we will not be silenced."
Protesters gathered in the busy suburban mall's food court, located at 160 N. Gulph Road, around 5 p.m. They dropped to the floor and staged die-ins at 5:15 p.m., 5:25 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. They also marched throughout the mall and parking lot for an hour and a half, chanting and carrying signs. More than 180 people attended.
The public die-in was one of many protests occurring nationwide to draw attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. The demonstrations followed two separate grand jury decisions not to indict the officers involved in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
Protesters often shout, "I can't breathe," to reference the final moments of Garner's life, which were captured on video.
The King of Prussia Mall protest occurred the same day when two NYPD officers were killed by a gunman in Brooklyn in an ambush attack. Protesters at KOP told NBC10 they did not condone any type of violence against police.
"I'm not anti-police," said Amber Black, one of the organizers of Saturday's protest. "A lot of times that's misconstrued, that people are just anti-police just because. I am anti-police brutality."
Black also thanked the police officers who surrounded the protesters as they staged the die-in.
"I really appreciated the help we had from police to make sure that everything ran smoothly," she said.
Vance Diezel, who runs a kiosk near the food court, told NBC10 the demonstration blocked business on what should have been his busiest day.
"We're not doing any business because of it," Diezel said. "They can have their opinions, that's fine. But it affects us. We're here trying to make a living."
Officials with the King of Prussia Mall, aware of the scheduled die-in, said safety was their top priority.
"We respect anyone's right to assemble on public property, however... our shopping center is private property," reads a post on the King of Prussia Mall's Facebook page. "Our first concern is always to maintain a welcoming and safe environment for tenants and guests. Should a demonstration occur, keeping that environment would be our first goal."
"However, our ongoing policy has been that demonstrations are not permitted on mall property."
Neither the protesters nor police reported any problems during the demonstration.
"We were here for peace," said Deandra Jefferson, another organizer. "We first got a call from the manager and he was worried about it. I assured him we weren't here to cause any ruckus. We simply wanted to make our voices heard."
Along with the KOP protest, another die-in took place near the Bala Cynwyd Shopping Center located near the intersection of City and Belmont avenues.
A group of nearly 200 middle school students, along with their chaperones, gathered along City Avenue near Monument Road around 9 a.m. and staged a die-in in the intersection for about 20 minutes.
A protest was also held at the Christiana Mall.