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Man arrested at Mall for wearing “Give Peace a Chance” t-shirt. This is truly ridiculous. I’ve been pretty quiet about all the threats to civil liberties lately because I’m too upset to write about them and didn’t want to turn this into a “warblog.” That may have to change if America continues turning into a police state. Just for the record, I’m totally against war in Iraq – not because I support them, but because I think the Bush administration is pushing the war for the wrong reasons and destroying America’s reputation worldwide.

2 responses so far (Respond)

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You need to make a distinction here between a “police state” and the arbitrary and rather stupid behavior of an owner of private property. In this case, it was the security guard at the mall (presumably acting under the policy of the mall owner) who asked the men to remove their “offensive” shirts. When the father refused, the guard acted within his legal authority to have both removed and arrested as trespassers.

This is entirely different from the hypothetical case of the two men walking on a public street wearing the shirts, and a police or FBI officer stops them and demands that they remove their “unacceptable” or “unpatriotic” shirts; they refuse and are arrested for violating the Patriot Act or some local ordinance against “aiding the enemy.”

In the latter case, the First Amendment applies (to the extent that any of the Bill of Rights still exists under Bush and Ashcroft). The First Amendment guarantees (or at least it used to) the right to speak out free from government interference. But in the former case, the offenders are on private property, and the property owner (who is not the government) has the right to control who can be on the his property and what people there can say or do.

The law isn’t completely that clear-cut these days. In most cities, privately-owned shopping malls have completely replaced public parks and streets as places where people gather. So it is possible that more First Amendment rights may accrue to shopping malls (to the extent that such rights exist at all any more).

That said, the owners of the mall and the security guards showed themselves to be total jackasses by ejecting the men and making a trespassing case (later dropped) of it. The adverse publicity from such utter stupidity will surely do them more harm than the supposed “disruption” the men caused other shoppers by wearing the shirts.

Ted | 6 Mar 2003
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I know what would work… wear the T-Shirts and then get a matching tatoo underneath! Of course, then, if this peace thing works out, you’d either slowly become obsolete or have to get a timestamp and a “Thanks” added later.

Patrick | 7 Mar 2003