Sunday, March 30, 2008

Elderly deacon arrested for wearing antiwar shirt

I know this story is anticlimactic, following the fascism binge of the middle of the decade, but we still have to be vigilant to defend the Constitution.

At Smith Haven Mall on Long Island, an 80-year-old church deacon has been arrested because he failed to turn his antiwar t-shirt inside-out. The mall described the shirt as having "graphic antiwar images." But all the shirt had was the number of American military personnel and Iraqi civilians killed in the war (4,000 and 1,000,000, respectively), the words "Dead" and "Enough", and 3 blotches.

They call numbers and blotches "graphic antiwar images"? That's almost like when the city of Virginia Beach tried prosecuting an Abercrombie & Fitch store over a "pornographic" advertising sign.

The elderly deacon was sitting peacefully in the food court with a cup of coffee when police approached. They promptly grabbed him, plopped him in a wheelchair, and arrested him. He was charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. Both of these charges are lies: He hadn't been ordered to leave the mall previously, so it wasn't trespassing. And no resistance to the actual arrest was offered.

As cops wheeled the deacon to the police car, a crowd formed to support him. But police and mall security ordered them to leave.

I've said it before: Malls (even if privately owned) are considered public conveyances, a principle that's been upheld by California courts. Reportedly, New Jersey did the same by guaranteeing activists the right to set up tables at a mall. I don't know what New York courts or statutes say, but the concept of malls as public gathering spaces is encrusted in common law. Neither the mall nor the police had any right to confront the man over his shirt.

This arrest is life in a Nazi police state, I guess. If America gets a real President any time soon, the Prez is going to have to lay down the law against the corporate world that thinks it has a right to abridge constitutional freedoms.


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