(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)


Subject: a disturbing personal account
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2003 23:37:13 -0500
From: "Fred Viebahn"

Here is a rather disturbing personal account -- but a fascinating read --from our good friend Julie Fay, a poet and English professor at Eastern Carolina University, followed by an equally bothersome New York Times article: 

We're not allowed to talk the talk around these parts

Dear Friends,

On Wednesday night, I was in a riverside restaurant in Washington, North  Carolina, in the bar overlooking the Pamlico River. Over the course of a  two-hour period, I ordered and drank two glasses of red wine.  I  eventually ordered dinner at the bar (oysters Rockerfeller; they were excellent) and a glass of Chardonay. On my left sat a man, middle aged,  and beside him another man, about 60-ish. The men were in the process of  discussing the War with Iraq and I engaged myself in their conversation, the way one tends to do while sitting at a bar. The man in the middle wound up getting up and going down to the other end of the bar and the older man remained. Our conversation went something like this:

He: They're hoggin' all the oil. They're greedy so and so's and they're driving up our gas prices like nuts. What we need to do is drop a small nuclear (I believe he pronounced the word better than Bush does) bomb on that country Eye-Rack and that'll be the end of that.

Me: (Tired of hearing my students talking about "towelheads" and hearing their belief that Bin Laden lives in Eye-Rack and that's why we're going to war there.)War's not the answer. Discussion is. More inspections. We need to talk, not fight. Get rid of that monster , yeah, but not by going in with a war.

He: We've given them plenty of time! They've had twelve years.

Bartender, coming from behind me, where'd she'd been serving dinner to other clients in the bar. She's 25-ish and says to me:: "No talkin' politics in here! No way! We'll have NONE o' that!" She comes around the bar, faces me.

Me: I have every right to sit here and say what my opinion of the war is.

She: Not when it's botherin' my customers you don't.

Me: I certainly do. I have a right to free speech.

She: No, M'am. Why looka that--you already made that man move down to the other end of the bar.

Me: I've got a right to sit here and say what I believe. (Bar is noisy, my voice is rising, as is hers.) You just don't like what I'm sayin'.

She: You're bothering my customers.

Me: (Turning slightly to the others in the bar): Is there no one in here who is against this war? (Bar too noisy for people to really hear my question.)

Her: Grabbing my plate of oysters and my (untouched) glass of white wine and slamming them down at the end of the bar, "Lady, I want you out of my bar."

Me: (Indignant.) On what grounds?

She: You are bothering my customers and I have the right to ask you to leave.

Me: I am not leaving. I have a right to sit here and voice my opinion.

She: Not if you're bothering others, you don't.

Me: Well, I'm not leaving. I'd like to speak to the manager.

Manager arrives. Ma'm, could we step outside in the parking lot and talk about this? We'd like you to leave.

Me: Well, I'm not leaving. I have my right to freedom of speech.

Manager: And my bartender has the authority and the right to ask you to leave and that is what we are doing.

Me: Well, I am not leaving.

Bartender: Well, then, we are just going have to get the police to remove you.

Me: That's fine with me.

A few minutes later, two young police officers arrive, one on each side of me, and say that they have come to ask me to leave the bar.

Me: "I refuse to leave because I'm being told to leave because this bartender doesn't like my point of view and I'm being denied my right to freedom of speech."

Officer: "Well, then we are going to have to arrest you."

Me: On what grounds?

Officer: Trespassing.

Me: Go right ahead.

They ask me to stand, put my arms behind my back, and handcuff me. As they lead me through the restaurant section of the establishment, the manager is reading me a statement to the effect that I am no longer welcome at their restaurant and that if I come in again I will be arrested. I am a fairly regular customer there (that is, go there once every couple of months.) The policeman asked me several times, didn't I want to just change my mind, and get in my car and go home. No, I did not. He helps me into the back seat and tells me if I lean forward a little the cuffs won't hurt me so much. He is very curettes.

At the police station: They seat me in the interrogation room and asked what happened. I explain. They ask me again if I'm sure I want to go through with this booking. They do not think I should. I'm a  professorat the university. "Won't this get you in trouble over there?" somebody asks.

"I don't care. It's a question of principle. I have the right to voice my own opinion in a public space. What are you charging me with?"


They book me. They do mug shots, etc. Walk me over to the county jail. I'm still with the young officer. "I guess I don't really need to cuff you, do I?"

Me "No."

He: Ma'am, why're you doin' this?

Me: Because it's important. You're too young to remember the sixties. I was pretty young in the sixties but now I'm older.

Inside the jail house, all of my belongings are confiscated, I am given my bright orange, pocket less, overalls, and a plastic bag with designer "High Security" toiletries, handed a three inch vinyl covered mattress, two thin flannel sheets, and told to follow the warden into the women's cell. There are some eight women in there, half black, half white. I'm put in the cell with one who is paler than pale, and about two hundred pounds, in for murder. The beds are metal benches. There is a toilet in between the bunk beds. Four bunk beds to a cell. Five cells, maybe six.

For the moment, until lights out at 11, the individual cell doors are open, so we can walk from cell to cell. I call my husband. I am to have several important medical procedures the next day (yesterday) and have to take medications tonight in order to prep for the procedures. My husband calls the magistrate and explains that I am stressed out, need to have the medical procedures urgently, cannot miss them. (I don't know this.) I'm told I will be held there until 8:30 the following night, i.e., 24 hours.

My husband succeeded in getting me released by 11p.m., just as my fellow inmates were getting their evening medications. My talk with them that night and what I saw is another story I need to put down.

I have called the Police Dept this morning to ask them to send me the records of my arrest. The records are incomplete. No narrative, no explanation, no details. I am placing a display ad in the local newspaper asking for anyone who was present in the bar to send in a description of what they witnessed. I called the Raleigh News and Observer yesterday and told them, briefly, the story, but they said they probably wouldn't pick it up because the folks at the bar would just say I was being rowdy. End of story.

Peace on earth,



A Message of Peace on 2 Shirts Touches Off Hostilities at a Mall


ALBANY, March 5---A father-and-son outing to a local shopping mall here on Monday night has touched off a furor over freedom of expression stemming from the father's refusal to take off a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Peace on Earth." 

Stephen Downs, 60, a lawyer who works for the state, and his son Roger, 31, said they went to Crossgates Mall to pick up the custom-made T-shirts at a store. The elder Mr. Downs also had the words "Give Peace a Chance" printed on the back of his shirt. His son's shirt read "No War With Iraq" and "Let Inspections Work."

 They said they decided to wear the T-shirts over their turtlenecks, and headed to the food court to have dinner. Soon afterward, they  said, security guards approached them while they were eating and requested that they take off the shirts.

His son complied, but Mr. Downs did not. "I didn't think I had to," Stephen Downs said. "It seemed to me my First Amendment rights permitted me to wear the T-shirt." He was arrested by the local police and charged with trespassing.

Roger Downs said that his father, while not the type to join protests or demonstrations, felt strongly that individuals should be able to express themselves. "And his message was peace. I mean, ‘Peace on Earth,' that's more of a Christmas card than an anti-war slogan."

In a written statement today, Tim Kelley, director of operations for Pyramid Mall Management, which owns Crossgates Mall, said that security guards were responding to a complaint about Mr. Downsand his son. "The individuals were approached by security because of their actions and interference with other shoppers," he wrote. "Their behavior, coupled with their clothing, to express to others their personal views on world affairs were disruptive of customers."

But Mr. Kelley did not elaborate on who made the complaint, or what the disruptive behavior was. Neither Mr. Kelley nor other mall officials responded to requests for interviews.

Tonight, however, the Guilderland police chief, James Murley, said that the mall's management had called him today and asked if the trespassing charge against Stephen Downs could be withdrawn, The Associated Press reported.

Officers arrested Mr. Downs only because he refused to leave private property when asked, Chief Murley said, noting that he would consult with the department's legal adviser on Thursday about whether to drop the charge. "With no complaint, I'm supportive of that," he said.

Roger Downs denied that he and his father had acted in a disruptive manner, saying that they did not pass out any fliers and spoke only to two people who approached them to compliment them on their T-shirts. "In this time when your voice seems to mean very little, this is a nice, quiet, passive way of expressing yourself," he said.

News of Mr. Downs's arrest has struck a chord of outrage among antiwar demonstrators and civil libertarians. Today, more than 150 people wearing T-shirts with antiwar slogans converged on Crossgates Mall to show support for Mr. Downs. The organizers said that one man was punched by a bystander who shouted, "Remember 9/11." No arrests were  reported.

The elder Mr. Downs, who works for the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct, did not participate in the rally, but he has been speaking to news organizations about his arrest.

Though shopping malls are public gathering places, federal and state courts have ruled that they are privately owned companies that have a legal right to remove people who are disrupting their business. In recent years, some malls have prohibited outside activities, ranging from political candidates handing out fliers to reporters interviewing customers.

Crossgates Mall has come under criticism in recent months after local news organizations reported that people displaying antiwar messages on their clothing were asked to leave the premises.

Arthur Eisenberg, the legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, called Mr. Downs's arrest an example of a shopping mall trying to censor the free-speech rights of its patrons. "We wonder where such censorship will end," he said. "Will the mall start prohibiting customers from wearing political buttons? Will it prohibit Sikhs from wearing turbans? The ultimate point is that we are a diverse society in which individuals hold diverse views."  ##

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