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NYCLU Calls On Crossgates Mall To Adopt Free Speech Policy

The NYCLU today released a letter it sent to the Pyramid Management Group, which operates the Crossgates Mall where Stephen Downs was arrested recently for wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Give Peace A Chance.”

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.”

In releasing the letter, NYCLU Director, Donna Lieberman, stated, “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 in the region. When, as here, the mall replace Main St. as a center of commercial and social activity, the censorship of expression has a devastating effect on the our freedom and on the diversity that is at the heart of a free society.”

Noting the absurdity of censoring the messages shoppers could carry on their clothing, the NYCLU letter asks, “If the Mall is located closer to Boston than to New York City will it choose to forbid baseball caps with the Yankee logo … Will Mall customers be barred for wearing the Adidas and Champion logos? Will commercial logos [be] acceptable but political and religious expression … unacceptable? And if so, will a consumer be prohibited from wearing a crucifix, . . . a turban, … a yarmulke? But, if religious symbols are permitted, by what logic will the Mall seek to exclude a political button supporting a candidate? And, if candidate buttons are permitted, will buttons supporting gun control or the N.R.A. or the United Federation of Teachers be excluded?”

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