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Lawyer Arrested for Wearing a 'Peace' T-Shirt

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer was arrested late Monday and charged with trespassing at a public mall in the state of New York after refusing to take off a T-shirt advocating peace that he had just purchased at the mall.

According to the criminal complaint filed on Monday, Stephen Downs was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "Give Peace A Chance" that he had just purchased from a vendor inside the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, near Albany.

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"I was in the food court with my son when I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall," said Downs.

When Downs refused the security officers' orders, police from the town of Guilderland were called and he was arrested and taken away in handcuffs, charged with trespassing "in that he knowingly enter(ed) or remain(ed) unlawfully upon premises," the complaint read.

Downs said police tried to convince him he was wrong in his actions by refusing to remove the T-shirt because the mall "was like a private house and that I was acting poorly.

"I told them the analogy was not good and I was then hauled off to night court where I was arraigned after pleading not guilty and released on my own recognizance," Downs told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Downs is the director of the Albany Office of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which investigates complaints of misconduct against judges and can admonish, censure or remove judges found to have engaged in misconduct.

Calls to the Guilderland police and district attorney, Anthony Cardona and to officials at the mall were not returned for comment.

Downs is due back in court for a hearing on March 17. He could face up to a year in prison if convicted.

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20 Responses:

  1. thesliver says:

    One could hope that a suitably large number of people would congregate in the mall, take off their coat, or whatever, and show the same t shirt. Not to demonstrate of course, just to go about the usual business in a mall. Whatever that is.

  2. cetan says:

    The whole "mall is private property" thing is, imo, a sticky one now that they are so pervasive in society. The mall projects the image that they are an open, friendly, and safe place to spend time. However if you try to, say, photograph inside the mall they get all jumpy and haul you off to jail. Of course, they only do that for non-teens with SLRs...

    • ralesk says:

         I remember my mom almost getting thrown out of one of our new shopping centres for making photographs (of my cousins in front of an artificial waterfall), but I believe they have failed at introducing this out here in Hungary, at least, I never had a problem doing the same thing a year later.

  3. Huh. I'll be in the area next week and was planning on spending a good amount of time at that mall. Will have to get some anti-war shirts prior to doing so now.

  4. yksi says:

    WTF?!? A shirt saying "give peace a chance" is offensive now??!?

    • greyhame says:

      Well, of course! It voices dissent from the President's stated position, so obviously it's unpatriotic, and that's tantamount to treason--I'm surprised they're not trying to get the death penalty.

  5. darwinx0r says:

    I bet he was kicked out of the mall for nothing other than wearing a peace shirt, because Mall Security is actually part of the Department of Fatherland Security.

    Come on guys, turn on your media criticism circuits. Please.


    • baconmonkey says:

      you've not noticed the societal self-policing that has emerged as a result of all this?
      it need not be a gov't edict passed down to mall security, when all it takes is a pair of patriotic feeling guards, looking to flex their muscle in patriotic duty and deal with some commie liberal hippie terrorist-sympathizer peace freak. Remember what Our Glorious Leader said: "you're either with us, or you're with the terrorists". obviously WE are going to war and kick some Iraqui Ass YEE HAW! so anyone calling for peace is not with US, and thus with the TERRORISTS.

      Sorry, JWZ if that post gets your journal flagged for additional Homeland Security anal probes.

      • darwinx0r says:

        Frankly, I haven't noticed any self-policing from a pro-war standpoint. However, I live in San Francisco, groovy hippie lawless land. (*cough*)

        The Associated Press Version of this story includes a very interesting note:

        Monday's arrest came less than three months after about 20 peace activists wearing similar T-shirts were told to leave by mall security and police. There were no arrests.

        Many of the online versions of this story contain this last paragraph, although any descended from this Reuters version of the story contain no reference to previous interaction between mall security and people attempting to protest inside the mall.

        While Chicken Little Galore across the Blogsphere (*cough*) undoubtedly will take this as a sign of the sky falling, I am quite sure that mall security doesn't allow organized protest of any kind. It's quite plain that this group is trying to raise anti-war publicity by antagonizing their local mall. The local mall is not public space and can therefore refuse access to whomever they please. If that person refuses to leave, they will be arrested for trespassing because that's what they're doing.

        People (myself included) need to stop wasting their time discussing the irrelevant, poorly reported/documented actions of random private Americans and spend a little more time learning about what our Government is doing.


  6. elanswer says:

    The mall arrests the customer for wearing the t-shirt that they let the mall vendor sell. Sounds smart. I suppose it might have been better for him to just walk around the mall topless? (Sure, he had a change of clothes, but they didn't specify that he had to wear it.)

  7. atakra says:

    Now if they'll just start arresting people with "World's Greatest Grandpa" and "I'm with Stupid" T-Shirts, the world will be a better place.

  8. four says:

    I can't help but wonder if there is another side of this story... I find it hard to believe that mall security would ask a patron to remove a tshirt

    • jlindquist says:

      What, have you never been to a mall? Have you never encountered a mall security droid?

      Mall security droids, almost universally, are simply thugs who couldn't get into police academies, and couldn't get college degrees to land school discipline administrator gigs.

      It's all about power-tripping.

      This story's objectionable on its face. The irony that he bought the shirt in that very mall is an added bonus.

      • Exactly. I don't see this as some vast conspiracy to shut down dissent. Just a cop that threw a temper tantrum when some damn hippie wouldn't respect his authority.

  9. cypherpunks says:

    The relevant supreme court decision is Pruneyard Shopping Center vs. Robins.