Thursday, June 21, 2007

Give Peace a Chance

POLICE have arrested a 60-year-old lawyer wearing a T-shirt saying "Give Peace A Chance".

A judge charged Stephen Downs with trespassing after he politely declined to leave the Crossgates Mall in a suburb of Albany, New York State, on Monday evening, or remove his top, which he had had printed there.

Mr Downs pleaded not guilty and cited his right to free speech. He could face up to a year in prison. His son, Roger, 31, avoided arrest by removing a T-shirt saying "No War With Iraq" on one side and "Let Inspections Work" on the other.

His father's second offending message was: "Peace On Earth." "We weren't talking to people or handing out leaflets," Mr Downs Jr told a local newspaper. "My point was I'm not trying to convert anybody," his father said.

Most Americans support President Bush's war plans, but many Democrat voters oppose them. James Murley, the local police chief, told The Times that his office had been inundated with complaints since the arrest. "We're getting all kinds of e-mails, some of them rather nasty," he said.

Chief Murley said that one of his officers had tried for an hour to persuade Mr Downs to end a stand-off with two security guards who stopped him and his son after a shopper reported a confrontation with passers-by that she thought might turn nasty. But, as one guard pointed out three times in his deposition to police, he did so "in a nice way". The other guard took a tougher line, alleging that the men were "bothering" shoppers by telling them why they opposed the "pending war with Iraq". Chief Murley said that the shopping centre had signs advising customers that the "wearing of apparel likely to provoke disturbances" was banned. Paul A. Clyne, the District Attorney, also said that it was up to the mall to choose its clients.

However, Mr Downs may have an ace up his sleeve when he appears in court on March 17, with no jury. He is the director of the local office of a state commission that investigates complaints against judges and imposes punishments.


No comments: