Protest At 'Peace' T-Shirt Arrest Mall


GUILDERLAND, NY -- Protestors descended on Crossgates Mall Wednesday. The "Mall Walk for Peace" drew people from several peace groups to protest the arrest of 61-year-old Stephen Downs of Selkirk earlier this week. Downs was charged with trespassing Monday night when he wouldn't leave the mall after he refused to remove his T-shirt bearing a peace message.
Downs and his son, 31-year-old Roger Downs, each had a pro-peace shirt made Monday night at a store in the mall.  One shirt simply said "Let Inspections Work" on one side and "No War With Iraq" on the other.  The other shirt said "Give Peace A Chance" on the front and "Peace On Earth" on the back.
    A Macy's employee saw the men in the food court and alerted security.  Downs and his son were asked to remove their shirts. Roger Downs complied, but when Stephen Downs wouldn't, he was told to leave the mall.  When he refused, he was arrested for trespassing.
   Demonstrators upset about the trespassing charge arrived at Crossgates shortly before noon Wednesday wearing similar peace messages.  At 12 p.m., they entered the mall together and sat down for lunch at the food court.  They said they were doing what Stephen and Roger Downs should have been allowed to do.
    The group also marched through the mall, and at one point there was a confrontation in the food court between one of the marchers and a man carrying a sign that read  "9-11."
   The protestors said they were willing to be arrested, although no arrests have been reported.
    Stephen Downs paid $23 for each shirt.  The father and son put the shirts on Monday night after purchasing them at a store in the mall.
    "This struck me as a powerful way of expressing myself. I wanted to do something peaceful," Stephen Downs said.
    His son points out that they were not verbally protesting or interfering with any other shoppers.
    "We were just shopping. We were wearing these T-shirts. We weren't handing out leaflets, we weren't saying anything," Roger Downs recalled.
    They may not have been saying anything, but their message apparently created enough of a disturbance to the mall employee.
    Roger Downs says he is proud of his father.
   "I'm impressed that he's refused to have his civil rights violated," Roger Downs said.
    Guilderland police say they arrested Downs because he refused to leave private property. That, they say, is trespassing.
    Representatives for Crossgates did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
    Signs posted at entrances to the mall say that "wearing of apparel... likely to provoke disturbances... is prohibited" at the mall.



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