This photograph was taken yesterday during an anti-police protest in Minneapolis' massive Mall of America; it reminded me of the 1976 sci fi movie Logan's Run, which is set in an underground city whose beautiful young inhabitants are encouraged to party and shop, and then party and shop some more - and threatened with violence if they are imaginative enough to question the logic behind their apparently blissful lifestyle.
The Mall of America's sinister text message to protesters underlines an argument that sociologist Mike Davis has made about the anti-democratic nature of privately owned shopping precincts.
In City of Quartz, his classic study of life in Los Angeles, Davis notes the difference between a publicly owned city space, like a park or a square, where citizens are often free to meet and discuss ideas, distribute materials like leaflets and pamphlets, and hold protest rallies, and a privately owned mall, where anybody who upsets the owner can be eased out the door by security guards.
A shopping mall offers the illusion of public space. As long as visitors to the mall keep buying toys and soft drinks and movie tickets, then the illusion is maintained. When visitors to a mall want to behave like citizens rather than consumers, though, they soon discover the true nature of their environment.