- 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
- 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
- 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.