the mauling of American liberties

There are all kinds of reasons to question the various plans for the site of the World Trade Center, but one of them is not an argument about aesthetics.

The entire former WTC area was extraterritorial, meaning not subject to the laws of New York City or New York State. Significantly, the Port Authority buildings were the last New York City commercial or office spaces to regulate or prohibit smoking, and in the end that was done independent of New York laws. More significant for civil rights was the fact that demonstrations or protests of any kind, and the behavior or even the very presence of the public was subject to the whims of the Port Authority and could not be challenged by law. I have personal experience with the burden of arrogant Port Authority power. These were not the streets of the city. Private property!--we can keep you out.

The World Trade Center was Supermall, and those planning its replacement now are repeating this affront to New York freedoms and sensibilities. Private property!--we can keep you out.

All of this brings me to my latest story about the outrageous violation of civil liberties in the name of public order. Stephen Downs was arrested in an Albany area mall on monday night for wearing a pro-peace t-shirt.

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.

. . .

Signs posted at entrances to the mall say that "wearing of apparel... likely to provoke disturbances... is prohibited" at the mall.

When security approached Downs and his 31-year-old son in a food court, they were asked to remove their shirts. The son did so, but the father refused and was arrested for trespasssing when he declined to leave the mall as requested by mall security. Today Newsday reports, "The men had had the T-shirts made at a mall store and wore them while they shopped."

The malls of America, they're not just an assault on our aesthetic and social sensibilities anymore. They are an assault on our freedoms as well. Private property!--we can keep you out.