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“Which Amendment Is That Again?”

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At this point I am pro-war (this war) all the way – no ambivalence whatsoever that the military invasion of Iraq using the “shock method” is the appropriate course of action. I am wary of anti-war protest because it gives Saddam hope and makes him less likely to comply with disarmament requirements that could avert invasion, but I do not want to shut anyone up, or inhibit their free expression.

I especially do not want crap like this:

    The management at Crossgates Mall Wednesday asked the Guilderland Police Department to drop the trespassing charges against a Selkirk man. This came after about 100 protestors descended on Crossgates Mall that afternoon. Their “Mall Walk for Peace” protested the arrest of 60-year-old Stephen Downs, who was charged with trespassing Monday night when he wouldn’t leave the mall after he refused to remove his T-shirt bearing a peace message.

    DOWNS AND HIS SON, 31-year-old Roger Downs, each had a pro-peace shirt made Monday night at a store in the mall. One shirt simply said “Let Inspections Work” on one side and “No War With Iraq” on the other. The other shirt said “Give Peace A Chance” on the front and “Peace On Earth” on the back.

    The men say they were not disturbing any shoppers, but their presence apparently caused enough of a disruption for one Macy’s employee to report them to mall security. When security approached them in the food court, Downs and his son were asked to remove their shirts. Roger Downs complied, but when Stephen Downs wouldn’t, he was told to leave the mall. When he refused, he was arrested for trespassing. [MSNBC]

This is absurd and obscene – the report is unclear as to who wore what between the father and son, but “Let Inspections Work” “No War With Iraq” “Give Peace A Chance” “Peace On Earth” is about as protected as speech should be in a public place: no obscenity, no vulgarity, no noise. This is obvious abuse of the discretionary power of police and mall management in applying the use of “trespassing” – it is harassment of protected political speech – silent in this case – in its most naked form.

No wonder the mall urged to city to drop the charges: this is a slam-dunk lawsuit waiting to make the protestors the new owners of the mall. They should still sue the mall, and the city too.

UPDATE
The police report in The Smoking Gun states that Downs was stopping customers and telling them why he was wearing the t-shirt in question.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    WRONG! You do NOT have free speech rights on other people’s private property. You can walk up and down the street carrying signs all day long, but you don’t have a right to impose yourself on somebody’s private place of business. Legally, the mall is absolutely right. These jackasses have no whiff of a legitimate cause for action against the mall.

    Now, this was probably bad strategery for the mall. It plays right into these retard’s hands. Wow, they get to be free speech martyrs! And the best kind of free speech martyr- one what didn’t have to risk any real punishment.

    Nonetheless, I’m sympathetic to the mall’s goals. I doubt management really cares about supporting or not supporting the war, but they just don’t want their customers bothered. Customers come to the mall to be CUSTOMERS. It is a place of business, not a public square.

  • Eric Olsen

    Legally you are correct. The fact – assuming it is a fact – that the pair was stopping customers and forcing their war views upon them also makes it something more than a silent protest via clothing. And it appears that Downs was looking to be arrested. Under the circumstances, it probably couldn’t have gone much differently: arrest him to get him out of there, then refusing to press charges to mitiage the PR problem.

    So, okay.