NYCLU Urges Mall Where Man was Arrested for Peace T-Shirt to Adopt Free Speech Policy

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
March 11, 2003 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — A letter sent today by the New York Civil Liberties Union condemned the actions of a management company whose employees violated the First Amendment rights of a Syracuse man when they detained him and later had him arrested for wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, “Give Peace A Chance.”

The letter is addressed to Tim Kelley of Pyramid Management Group, which operates the Crossgates Mall in Albany where 61-year-old Stephen Downs was recently arrested.

“While the issue of free speech in shopping malls came to a head with Mr. Downs’ arrest at Crossgates, it remains an issue at malls across the country, especially since Pyramid operates many other large malls around the Northeast,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU.

“When malls replace Main Street as a center of commercial and social activity, the censorship of expression has a devastating effect on the freedom of expression and the diversity that is at the heart of a free society,” Lieberman added.

The NYCLU letter asks the mall to adopt a policy that respects diversity and free speech.

“As a matter of both public policy and common sense,” the letter notes, “individuals must be permitted to wear clothing that expresses their aesthetic sensibilities as well as their artistic or athletic affinities and even their ideological views.”

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