for peace: Julie Belles.
Photo by John Whipple.
World Peace . . . Somewhere Else
Mall bounces holiday shoppers for wearing T-shirts with “offensive”
messages like “Peace on Earth”
Julie Belles showed up at Crossgates Mall the Saturday before
Christmas, she had a bit more on her agenda than just finishing
up her holiday shopping. She wanted to send a silent message
about world peace to other shoppers.
Belles and 20 other members of the group Upper Hudson Peace
Action had agreed to cruise the mall with messages taped on
to their clothing that promoted world peace. “We all agreed
to walk around in groups of two to three with a message,”
said Belles. “We agreed that we would not carry signs, hand
out leaflets or chant, but simply stroll the mall for an hour,
finish up some holiday shopping while wearing shirts with
a message. Mine said ‘Peace on Earth . . . for a change’ on
the front, and ‘Don’t invade Iraq’ on the back.”
She said that the plan was to simply walk the mall, shop and
eat with the hopes that others would read her shirt.
were not out to stage a protest or cause any type of disruption
at the mall,” said Belles. “In fact, we were not viewing this
as a protest or demonstration, but rather a peaceful way to
spread a message.”
But just 10 minutes after Belles and two other middle-aged
women, one who was on crutches, entered the mall, they were
approached by mall security, who told them that they either
had to remove their message or leave the mall.
said our message was offensive,” said Belles. “We said that
our message was simply about peace—and what better time of
the year to promote such a message than at Christmas.”
Security personnel proceeded to follow them, she said, and
kept walking in front of them, preventing them from shopping.
“They became increasingly aggressive,” said Belles. “In fact
they were quite rude about the whole thing.”
Belles was not the only one who was approached by security.
Maureen Aumand, 56, who lives in Colonie and works as a school
librarian in Watervliet, was also harassed by security.
told me that I had to leave if I did not remove my message,
and if I did not that the police would escort me out,” said
Aumand. “Once I started walking to my car, they followed me
through the parking lot.”
Guilderland police were called to the scene to make sure that
the protesters left. Slowly but surely, all of the other 20
or so sign-wearing shoppers were approached by mall security
and given the ultimatum of either removing their signs or
being kicked out. In fact, one protester, Joe Seeman, a 42-year-old
computer programmer, removed his sign but was still told to
leave the property.
Mark Wagner, general manager of Crossgates Mall, said that
the incident “doesn’t warrant any comment.” However, he did
say, “The mall is private property and we choose who we allow
on the property for matters like that. It is for the shoppers.”
Mark Mishler, an Albany civil-rights lawyer, explained that
a 1985 New York State Court of Appeals decision involving
Sound & Hudson Against Atomic Development (S.H.A.D. Alliance)
and the Smith Haven Mall on Long Island, ruled that since
shopping malls are private property, management is free to
banish people who engage in political activity such as leafleting
or staging protests. However, Mishler added, the ruling may
not apply to this particular situation because the participants
were not engaged in active protests; they were simply walking
quietly around the mall in groups of two or three.
were not leafleting,” said Mishler. “They did not have a table,
they were not holding signs, and there was not a group congregation
as with the S.H.A.D. case. So one question that gets raised
here is, What is it that happened that gave any right to the
mall to take any action?”
Belles said that the Upper Hudson Peace Action sent an open
letter to Wagner, requesting a meeting to discuss the events
that took place Dec. 21.
feel that mall security treated us unfair, violated our rights
to free speech and exercised the practice of discriminatory
censorship in regard to the clothing we were wearing. For
this reason, we wanted to meet with Wagner.”
However, Wagner said that he sees no reason for such a meeting
at this time.
this is more than just a peace issue,” said Seeman. “If kids
go to the mall and wear the wrong T-shirt or wear their nose
ring the wrong way, can they be thrown out? When you look
around the mall, there are far more offensive messages than
Peace on Earth.”
Photo by John Whipple.
Can’t Do That Here
and towns pass resolutions not to cooperate with federal investigations
of citizens based on their ethnicity or beliefs
many fear that the “war on terror” and the recently passed
Homeland Security Act are steadily eroding our nation’s civil
liberties, various cities across the United States have adopted
resolutions to protect their citizens from potential investigative
excess by the federal government.
According to Nancy Talanian, codirector of the Northampton,
Mass.-based Bill of Rights Defense Committee, governments
in nearly two dozen cities throughout the country have drafted
and passed resolutions asking local authorities to respect
civil liberties when engaging in federal investigations to
fight terrorism. For example, the resolution BORDC helped
draft for the town of Amherst, Mass., asks “town employees
not to cooperate with federal investigators seeking to interrogate
people on the basis of their ethnicity, their religious beliefs,
or the beliefs of their families and friends.”
The cities that have taken these actions are not just the
nation’s liberal hotbeds, either. Cities as large as Chicago
and Tampa, Fla., have passed resolutions.
Northhampton, we asked local law enforcement to protect the
local people’s rights under the U.S. and Massachusetts constitution[s],”
said Talanian. “We asked them not to engage in racial profiling
and detentions without trials, and to let [the community]
know what is going on when these things are happening.”
After the passage of the USA P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act in October
2001 and the creation of plans for an Office of Homeland Security,
Talanian said her group became concerned that the United States
government was revisiting frightening territory: blatantly
targeting activists, nonconformists and ethnic and religious
minorities à la the counterintelligence programs of the 1960s
and the Committee on Un-American Activities of the 1950s.
Talanian said BORDC posted the idea of local resolutions on
the Internet and has since been advising grassroots organization
in towns, cities and counties across the country on how to
garner support for similar resolutions.
implement it locally and then let the federal legislators
know,” Talanian said. “The community members contact us and
organize it and then bring it to the city council and try
to get the city council to pass it. We work with the organizers
as a grassroots democracy. That is a very important part.”
Talanian said that after Northampton’s resolution passed,
her group sent copies to elected officials in Washington,
including Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who expressed interest.
Steve Greenfield of the New Paltz Greens contacted Talanian
and has since been working with community groups throughout
the town, collecting signatures to bring to local elected
officials. Greenfield is aware of the criticism that has greeted
similar antiwar resolutions drafted by local governments,
but said he is looking to do more than make a statement.
of the things we’re pushing for are under local jurisdiction,
so this is not just a symbolic measure,” said Greenfield.
“Obviously, we can’t interfere with anything the FBI is doing
on its own, but our law enforcement agencies are under the
jurisdiction of the local town board, and they don’t have
to engage in [investigations] on behalf of any outside federal
New Paltz’s town board has not yet considered the resolution,
but Greenfield said he discussed the idea with the mayor and
received positive feedback. Greenfield hopes the resolution
will come to a vote in New Paltz by the end of the month.
Locally, Helen Desfosses, Albany Common Council president,
said she has not been approached by a group in Albany interested
in passing a resolution of this nature, but she views the
idea favorably and would ask the council to consider it.
think it is a great idea,” Desfosses said. “The process of
resolution discussion and passage brings the issue to the
public. It helps surface and focus debate. As I understand
it, the USA P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act is thousands of pages long
and contains countless sleeper horrors, and anything that
sheds light on the legal process is critical.”
Can You Spare a Nickel?
a $10 billion budget gap looming, some say New York state
should expand its returnable-containers law
New York facing a wide- mouthed budget gap this year, many
say the state should start collecting empty bottles.
Advocates of a plan to revamp New York’s returnable-containers
law said placing nickel deposits on noncarbonated beverages
and allowing the state to collect the unclaimed dollars could
help fill state coffers in a year in which the budget gap
has been estimated at $10 billion. Consumer advocates, environmental
groups and politicians are hoping both houses of the state
Legislature will revisit bills introduced last year calling
for an expansion of New York’s returnable-bottle law.
As it was adopted in 1983, New York’s Bottle Bill required
nickel deposits on soft-drink, beer, malt-beverage, wine-cooler,
mineral-water and soda-water containers, but no deposit was
required on containers for spring water, teas and sports drinks.
But Judith Enck, environmental policy advisor to New York
state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (who has endorsed the
proposal), said these containers were exempted from the law
because, at the time, they didn’t exist.
is just a fluke of the bottle law that it only covered carbonated
beverages,” said Enck. “We call that the burp loophole. There
wasn’t much of a market [for noncarbonated beverages] back
then. If you wanted water you’d just go to the tap. This is
basically updating the law to include noncarbonated beverages.”
The money from unreturned containers, estimated at $83 million
annually, is currently claimed by the beverage industry, but
Enck said the money could be used to help fund the state’s
recycling program. If the law is expanded to cover deposits
on noncarbonated beverages, Enck estimates the figure could
climb to more than $100 million.
aspect of the law is to use the money to fund local recycling
and waste-prevention programs,” Enck said. “Recycling is now
funded from the environmental protection fund. The legislation
is crafted so that this fund would get a massive increase
in new money.”
Gov. George E. Pataki has not released his executive budget
for the coming year, but he has asked all state agencies to
shave 5 percent from their budgets. Considering how other
environmental measures have fared throughout the state in
the past—the fund to clean up polluted sites statewide has
been bankrupt since April 2001—it is a safe bet that the environmental
protection fund wouldn’t turn away an additional $20 million
But Michael Vacek, president of the New York State Beer Wholesalers
Association, strongly opposes the measure, saying it unfairly
taxes his industry.
shouldn’t tax a specific product just because it is easy to
tax,” Vacek said. “What it comes down to is a group of people
conveniently volunteering someone else’s money to pay for
a certain service. Why should beverage containers pay the
cost? Why aren’t the corn cans and newspapers paying for it?
Let’s have an advance disposal fee on all recyclable goods.”
Further, Vacek said, beverage distributors use the money from
unclaimed deposits to finance bottle exchange: cleaning, storing
and transporting the bottles.
still have all of the costs of redemption, but some of the
incomes are now missing,” said Vacek. “That could lead to
higher beverage prices. And look who pays, the consumer.”
According to a report by the NYSBWA, beer and soft-drink prices
rose 11 to 18 percent following the initial implementation
of the New York’s bottle law, though some of that increase
was attributed to increasing costs in beer production. A 1984
study by Long Island University’s Center for Management Analysis
stated that beer and soft drink sales dropped by 6 percent
after the bottle bill was introduced. But the Container Recycling
Institute said that nationally, sales figures increased at
or near the national average for the three- to five-year period
following the passage of redemption laws.
Laura Haight, senior environmental associate with the New
York Public Interest Research Group, said the expansion of
the bottle law to include deposits on noncarbonated beverage
containers has implications beyond the state economy.
are a lot social benefits as far as homeless people who make
their living from picking up bottles and cans,” said Haight.
“There have been a number of people who are involved in the
bill and see the benefit from this bill, from scout troops
to various charities. There is a lot of good in this bill.”
Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-C-Suffolk) and Assemblyman Thomas
DiNapoli (D-L-Nassau) introduced the legislation into their
respective houses of the Legislature last year. As of December
2002, both pieces of legislation were supported by 98 national,
state and regional groups representing government and community-based
Photo by Teri Currie.
Leave Us Out in the Cold
the People’s State of the State, advocates urge governor not
to take New York’s fiscal crisis out on the poor
Tuesday, the day before Gov. George E. Pataki’s State of the
State address, local poverty activists and labor leaders braved
the blistering cold outside the state Capitol to demand that
state leaders respond to New York’s rising number of poor
Because New York faces a nearly $10 billion budget deficit,
a looming fiscal crisis that Gov. Pataki acknowledged in his
inauguration speech last week, groups like the Hunger Action
Network of New York fear that state government might slash
emergency food and shelter funding this year. They are not
alone: Many state departments and state-funded programs are
bracing for a far-reaching reduction in funding. But according
to speakers like Donna DeMaria, executive director of the
Homeless Action Committee, there could not be a worse time
for cutbacks that would affect New York’s poor.
are about two to four thousand people who end up homeless
right here in Albany each year,” DeMaria said at the rally,
which was dubbed “The People’s State of the State.” Local
homeless shelters are completely full, DeMaria added, and
local human-service and faith groups are trying to open an
emergency overflow shelter that would operate out of Albany’s
First Lutheran Church. Bich Ha Pham, executive director for
Hunger Action, estimated that overall, New York has seen a
27-percent increase in the number of people seeking emergency
food this year alone.
The rally, organized by Hunger Action, preceded the governor’s
annual address to a joint session of the Legislature. The
address usually gives a general overview of New York’s economic
situation, the major issues of the year, and some idea of
the governor’s legislative agenda. Pataki’s office did not
return calls for comment on this story, but at press time,
most of the governor’s speech was expected to keep with tradition:
fairly broad subjects, without much direct discussion of what
specific programs could face cuts.
People’s State of the State,” however, was relatively specific.
While drawing attention to the state’s growing poverty problems,
speakers also suggested alternatives to cutting important
programs and argued that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and
nationwide recession are not entirely to blame for New York’s
problems. Instead, speakers largely faulted a trend of unfair
taxation, problems with welfare and other services for the
poor that further encourage income disparity, and corporate
something that’s been happening gradually over the years,”
Bich Ha Pham said.
Mark Dunlea, president of Hunger Action, said that one of
his organization’s main priorities this year will be to convince
the Legislature to close corporate tax loopholes and temporarily
raise taxes on people who make $100,000 a year or more. For
example, some New York corporations transfer their funds out
of state to avoid paying state taxes on them, according Richard
Kirsch, executive director of the Citizen Action Network of
New York. Kirsch also noted that because the federal government
will be giving tax cuts this year—ones skewed to the upper
class, he noted—those affected by a state tax hike would still
pay less this year in the long run.
the big Bush tax break for you,” Kirsch said. A state tax
hike alone could rise up to $3 billion, he added.
Danny Donahue, president of the Civil Service Employees Union,
urged the state government to stop giving tax breaks to corporations
that do not necessarily need them in the name of encouraging
them to create more jobs. One protestor, acting as Senate
Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, (R-C-Troy), referred to Empire
Zones—regional tax cuts meant to en courage business development
in struggling parts of the state—as an example. Since unemployment
and hunger continue to rise, Donahue suggested that this policy
has not worked.
didn’t cause the stock market to go down,” Donahue said. “Certainly
Sept. 11 was a tragedy for everyone. But we shouldn’t be the
ones bearing the burden.”
Many of the other points that were raised echoed messages
that groups like Hunger Action have been sending for years.
Most prominent were raising the minimum wage, reforming welfare
laws to allow more job training and education, and creating
universal health care, all of which Dunlea said would help
New Yorkers to escape poverty more permanently.
But, in a year of such fiscal uncertainty, Dunlea, who has
been working on issues like these at Hunger Action for nearly
20 years now, acknowledged that his uphill battle might be
all the more steep.
like to try to start out optimistic,” he said. “The reality
is we’re probably facing a very difficult budget.”
Middle Easterners required to register with the INS fear detention
is running out for Mo-hammed. He only has two more days to
comply with a new federal mandate requiring him to register
with authorities, or be in violation of his visa and risk
being deported back to his homeland.
am scared to go down and register,” said Mohammed, who lives
in Troy and is from Afghanistan. He doesn’t want his last
name revealed in case he decides not to register. “I saw what
happened to all of those people in California last month and
I don’t want that to happen to me.”
Last month, Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered males 16
and older from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria to register
in person with the Immigration and Naturalization Service
by Dec. 16. But in Southern California, when thousands of
men showed up voluntarily to be fingerprinted, photographed
and questioned by INS, hundreds were detained because of various
feel very frightened,” said Mo hammed. “It seems like a very
targeted campaign against one community, that follows one
INS spokesman Francisco Arcaute defended the detainments in
California, saying that the agency arrested no one based on
ethnicity or religion.
only people that were detained were those in violation of
immigration law,” said Arcaute.
Now under way is the second phase of the “Special Registration”
system, which extends the enrolment requirements to men visiting
the Untied States from other countries including Afghanistan,
Algeria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, and the United
Arab Emirates. The deadline for these men to register is tomorrow
(Friday, Jan 10).
Amy Otten, spokeswoman for the INS Eastern region, based in
Burlington, Vt., said that under the new program, the INS
requires all male visitors older than 16, including foreigners
in the United States on student, business or tourist visas,
to register. She said that the purpose of the program is to
improve the government’s monitoring of foreigners in the United
States on temporary visas.
intent is all tied to national security,” said Otten. “We
need to know who is visiting the country. The ultimate goal,
as mandated by Congress, is a complete entry-exit system so
that anyone who came in as a visitor would be registered.”
Otten explained that the Northeast region has not experienced
the same problems as California, and people need not be afraid.
have not had the same problems here,” Otten said. “We encourage
anybody who needs to register to do it. . . . If they don’t
register, they could be asked to leave the country.”
Ziad Asali, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination
Committee, said that he has great concerns that this program
seems to be a vehicle for incarcerating large numbers of people
who pose no threat to national security.
is no evidence,” said Asali, “that this action by the administration
will enhance national security in the face of terrorist threats
against the United States. On the contrary, it might play
into the hands of those who claim that the U.S. government
is motivated by anti-Islamic sentiments.”
Many others agree with Asali and have compared this program
to the way that Japanese were treated during World War II
or how the Jews were treated in Germany.
based on the fact of their race and their religion they are
being discriminated against,” said Yunis Fiske, an activist
who has organized a protest in front of the INS building in
Latham tomorrow (Friday) at noon. “They are being interned
like the Japanese. Their civil liberties don’t exist, they
can be held indefinitely, [and] a lot of these people don’t
have right to counsel. I find it appalling.”
But Otten said that anybody can bring a lawyer with them to
the registration session if they so choose. The problem for
many, however, is that they cannot afford representation.
know I have not done anything wrong,” said Mohammed. “So I
may be shooting myself in the foot if I don’t show up. But
I don’t think any of those other men would have shown up if
they thought that they had done anything wrong either.”