The Dimond Center mall in South Anchorage said it plans to close its doors and parking lot to the public Sunday after a website listed its address as a gathering spot for armed, peaceful protests associated with the nationwide “Refuse to be Silenced” marches on the nation’s capitols.
The mall’s announcement comes in the wake of the fatal attack at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
“We’re not making a political statement, but the Dimond Center is a private, family-owned business and is not an appropriate venue for an event such as this,” said Bob Dye, Dimond Center’s general manager, in a prepared statement sent to reporters. “We suggest that a traditional venue like the Park Strip is more appropriate for this rally.”
Dye said in an interview that his concern stemmed from a post at the treeofliberty.me website, which calls for the nation’s largest armed protest at U.S. capitols nationwide to “physically demonstrate to the world the massive amount of armed citizens in this country.” The Tree of Liberty site describes itself as “The Boogaloo Movement’s Press Platform.”
The Boogaloo movement is a newly formed “anti-government extremist movement,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. Boogaloo is a shorthand reference for a future civil war, the Anti-Defamation League says.
The Tree of Liberty website lists the Dimond Center’s address, 800 E. Dimond Blvd., as the site for Alaska’s capitol, where protesters should gather.
Dye said he thinks the listing was not a mistake. He thinks organizers, who he has not been in contact with, assumed many protesters will be unable to fly to Juneau, with no roads to Alaska’s capital city. He said the mall’s large parking lot might have been a factor in why it was selected. Organizers may have thought the mall was a public gathering spot, though it’s privately owned, he said.
“We will exercise our private property rights for this event, should it still happen on Sunday,” Dye said.
“I think this is an organized, well-thought-out event, obviously,” he said. “I think it’s obvious that breaching the Capitol gates didn’t happen on the spur of the moment. It had to have been thought out. Given the ferocity of that event, and the fact they’re calling for nationwide armed protest, yeah, we will exercise an abundance of caution and make sure employees and customers are all safe, as well as the property.”
Another post on the Tree of Liberty website, said to have been made by a representative of the Boogaloo Movement, condemns last week’s violence in Washington, D.C., and said its events Sunday will be peaceful.
“Any weapons on site during the protest will be pointed in a safe direction or holstered,” the post says. “We anticipate and expect no need to draw our weapon for any reason. As such, they will be displayed only.”
Dye said mall security will be beefed up in the days leading up to Sunday.
“We have plans in place to control access to the Dimond Center and the Dimond Center parking lot” on Sunday, he said.
A closure would affect more than 80 tenants, he said. The mall’s plans for the closure could change, if it becomes apparent the protest won’t take place there, he said.
Dye said the Dimond Center is coordinating with local and federal law enforcement to make sure the event does not take place there and to protect the center.
Dye said he first heard about the protest plans late Saturday through an email from a “concerned citizen” worried about their safety, he said.
“This has nothing to do with political persuasion,” he said. “If you polled people from our office, you’d probably find it split down the middle.”
The Dimond Center’s statement was issued as the FBI and police closed roads around the Midtown Mall following a report of a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot.
Dye said that investigation had nothing to do with the Dimond Center’s plans.
The 728,000-square-foot Dimond Center was founded by Joe and Patty Ashlock in the 1970s. In 2012, they passed the mall on to their descendants, who still own it. It features a Dave & Buster’s restaurant, a Best Buy electronics store, a movie theater and other businesses.