I took part in my 5th Die-In at the King of Prussia Mall on December 20, which was the most publicized die-in I’ve participated in yet. A primary rule for an activist is: if you can’t organize a massive demonstration, then demonstrate where the masses of people are already gathered. In this case it was at the largest mall on the East Coast on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. ABC News and other news companies (Norristown Patch) warned shoppers days in advance about the King of Prussia die-in, which helped raise publicity for the event. News companies that later recorded the die-in included ABC, NBC, CBS, Yahoo, the Times Herald, Tioga County PA News, PA Patch, Fushion, America Aljazeera, South China Morning Post.
Demonstrators were instructed to meet inside the food court at 5:00 P.M. At that time organizers Amber Black and Deandra Patrice led over a hundred demonstrators (NBC claimed 180) in the well-known chants “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “Black Lives Matter!” Both organizers did a wonderful job putting together the event. They coordinated with mall security and police beforehand to prevent unnecessary conflict and arrests. “I’m not anti-police,” Amber stated to a NBC reporter. “I am anti-police brutality.” (Alison Burdo & David Chang, NBC10.com, December 20, 2014) As we performed the die-ins, Amber made sure to thank surrounding police offciers for their cooperation.
At 5:15 we performed the first of three Die-Ins that night. The first die-in outside the food court lasted 4 minutes and 30 seconds to represent the four-and-a-half hours Michael Brown’s dead body lay on the street. Considering that there were thousands of shoppers passing us, there was relatively little heckling. There were of course many older white people who booed, and one older man even tried to drown out our chanting with a child’s whistle, but all to no avail. Being indoors and surrounded by thousands of unsympathetic bystanders didn’t seem to phase us, as we proudly chanted as loudly as we could everywhere we went.
After the first die-in was completed, we proceeded to march through the mall with our hands up in the air as we chanted: “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” We marched through the mall for several minutes. Most people were shocked to see hundreds of persons marching in a single line inside the mall as we chanted along the way. Many stores closed their gates as we walked by out of fear of a mob forming. This was understandable since most stores that closed their gates sold either jewelry or other expensive items, and even if they fully trusted the demonstrators to remain nonviolent, the reactions of bystanders are very unpredictable. We continued to march through the mall, until we reached a fountain near one of the exit doors. It was there that we performed our second die-in for 10 minutes, beginning at 5:25 P.M.
After the second die-in we marched out the exit doors, walked outside to the other building for five minutes, and then performed the third and final die-in at the second King of Prussia Mall building. We performed the die-in at a quiet area on the first floor, but many more people on the second floor were able to stare down at us. The third die-in lasted for 15 minutes, beginning around 5:45. This brought us to a total of 29 minutes and 30 seconds of dying-in for a single night. The longest Die-In that I’m aware of took place at a nuclear plant on August 9, 1978, which lasted exactly 28 minutes.
As every good story ends with a message of hope and optimism, so too did the die-in end on an uplifting note. When over 150 of us began standing up after the third die-in, we were applauded by shoppers on the second floor who witnessed our die-in from above. One older black man led the good-spirited applause by stating: “Thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done.” Everyone then joined in for a 20-second clap, as we congratulated ourselves for excelling at a thankless job; thus turning the most thankless job into the most honorable.