comment on private space: the NYCLU billboard. Photo
by Teri Currie.
What You Want
off Interstate 90, not long before you reach the westbound
Slingerlands exit, sits a sign that reads, “Welcome to the
mall. You have the right to remain silent. Value free speech.
The sign is a peculiarity among billboards. It depicts a young
person covered from cheek to cheek with a wide piece of yellow
tape, blocking out the mouth completely. The owner of the
ad isn’t trying to sell duct tape, or even invite you into
Instead, it makes reference to the Crossgates Mall’s policy
on free speech, and was posted by the New York Civil Liberties
Union—a statewide nonprofit organization, committed to upholding
the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution and the New York
As reported by Metroland [Newsfront, March 6], 61-year-old
Stephen Downs was arrested by a Crossgates Mall security guard
on March 3, after refusing to remove a T-shirt that read “Give
Peace a Chance.”
Pyramid Mall Management, owner of Crossgates Mall, hasn’t
backed off its policy. In response to a letter from the NYCLU,
the company detailed, in part, its code of conduct: “We reserve
the right to limit non-commercial expressive activity on the
property . . . including free-speech activities.”
Donna Leiberman, executive director of the NYCLU, argues that
the mall is an area where free speech should be protected.
the prominent role of malls in our society, policies of this
kind could prove extremely harmful for all Americans,” said
Lieberman in a public statement.
Being privately owned, the mall legally can enforce its own
code of conduct. But the definition of the mall as a private
space is somewhat ambiguous, Leiberman said.
is a difference between the public areas of a mall and the
private confines of a store. [The mall] invites people to
sit on the seats in its squares and eat in its restaurants,”
The NYCLU is calling on state lawmakers to pass legislation
that would guarantee mallgoers the right to self-expression.
The legislation would allow for restrictions, according to
Lieberman, and it has received support from Assembly members
Steven Englebright and John McEneny.
The NYCLU is engaged in a debate for what it sees as the right
to exercise a constitutional right in a place central to American
Public awareness is an important part of the process, Lieberman
said. “[The sign is] part of an effort to educate people about
Manna Jo Greene sees images of Baghdad on TV, like many people,
she thinks of the people whose lives are destroyed with each
bomb that falls from the sky. But for Greene, who recently
spent two weeks in Iraq, these images are the familiar faces,
sounds and smells of a city that she described as being highly
functional and alive just one month ago.
is really eerie when I see this, because I was just there,”
said Greene. “Now when I look at images I see a different
city than the city I was just in. I recognize the streets
and I remember standing there and I say to myself, ‘Oh my
God, I was on that street corner just two weeks ago.’”
Greene, who went to Iraq as a representative as the Hudson
Valley Peace Brigade, was part of the Iraqi Peace Team with
the Chicago-based group Voices in the Wilderness. Since 1996,
the group has sent more than 60 delegations to Iraq and has
violated sanctions by transporting medical supplies to the
Iraqi people. While many have gone to Iraq to serve as human
shields in hopes of preventing the war, others like Greene
went to stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people and to bring
a message of peace from the Western world.
This Sunday at the Emmanuel Baptist Church, Greene will talk
about her experience in Iraq. The event is sponsored by the
Education Committee of the Women Against War and the Focus
Church, and will begin at 7 PM.
wanted to go and see for myself and to make a connection with
the people,” said Greene. “One thing I found amazing was that
even though we were threatening to go to war, at that time,
people were universally warm, friendly and hospitable. At
that point, life was going along as usual: People were getting
married, dancing and singing in the streets, schoolchildren
were going to school, life was pretty ordinary.”
Late Than Never
the U.S. military invasion of Iraq a little more than two
weeks old, the Albany Common Council will consider, on April
7, a nonbinding resolution expressing the city’s desire to
bring the U.S. military campaign in the Middle East to a close.
Alderwoman Carolyn McLaughlin (Ward 2) is sponsoring the resolution,
an amended version of one she and a number of citizens were
working on prior to the beginning of U.S bombing in Iraq.
revised the resolution to point out the fact that we are against
the war continuing,” McLaughlin said. “We are also acknowledging
the sacrifice that the troops and their families are making.
By no means are we saying that we don’t support the troops;
we do that wholeheartedly.”
Albany would join a list of more than 160 counties, towns
and cities nationwide that have passed similar resolutions.
Those include Ithaca, New Paltz, Syracuse and New York City
in our state.
is the issue of our day, and I think it is the duty of citizens
to debate the issues of the day and take a stand on them,”
said Anita Thayer, a local civil-rights attorney who has pushed
for the city to adopt an antiwar resolution. “Hopefully, public
expression of this kind of sentiment will bring an end to
the war and bring the troops home.”
But Common Council President Helen Desfosses wondered how
the council would handle the resolution, since the war has
kind of effect will this have on the passage of such a resolution?”
wondered Desfosses. “People are going to be very concerned
about sounding supportive and respectful for the contribution
of American troops, and people on the council mirror the spectrum
of public opinion.”
McLaughlin pointed out that the resolution contains language
specifically addressing the contributions of U.S. military
servicemen, while considering the war’s effects on the people
war is having a devastating effect on the Iraqi people,” McLaughlin
emphasized. “Even though we are not targeting them, when you
have bombs dropping all over the place, you can’t help but
be affected by it.”
McLaughlin’s resolution will be presented to the Common Council
at its next meeting, at 7 PM on Monday (April 7) in the council
chambers on the second floor of City Hall, 24 Eagle St. in
Albany. A public comment period will be the first item on
city of Albany hosted one of five national public hearings
regarding proposed changes to the Clean Air Act at the
Marriott on Monday. Groups including Environmental Advocates
of New York and the American Lung Association, along
with New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer,
spoke out against the proposed changes. An organized
rally took place outside. The Environmental Protection
Agency sought public comment and information on the
proposed changes that many say will create more opportunities
for polluters to evade regulation. The EPA has extended
the public comment period until May 2. Learn how to
comment: Check out http://www.epa.gov/air/nsr-review/comment.html.
the theme from Rocky bouncing off the walls of
the Empire State Plaza, upwards of 30,000 New York state
health workers roared as speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan)
took center stage.
made the wrong choice,” Silver yelled into the microphone,
sending a message to Gov. George E. Pataki about his
proposed $2 billion cuts in health-care programs.
The protest was organized by the Service Employees International
Union and the Greater New York Hospital Association,
an umbrella group for more than 220 hospitals. The message:
Health-care workers do not support the proposed cuts.
Tuesday’s demonstration brought traffic in downtown
Albany to a standstill in what was the largest protest
to converge on the Capitol in more than 20 years.