Protesting at the Mall

A group of activists in Long Island, NY are protesting for their right to protest in area malls. This article explains how members of an antiwar group, Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives is pushing for the right to protest in various malls there, an action that is not supported by New York State law.

However, according to the article, in California, free-speech rights are given to mall attendees despite the fact that the centers are private property.

Though not a new issue nationally, this current go-round was prompted in March when an 80-year-old man was arrested for protesting the Iraq war in Simon Property Group’s Smith Haven Mall.

For our part, we understand both sides of the argument. Sure, protesters have many different venues like blogging, to air their grievances, points out a Simon attorney in the story. But in some of these suburban communities the mall is the only place where people can gather and voice their opinions in person to a large audience.

Should companies like Simon just give in and let these people protest? Or will the activists bother shoppers, hurt sales and likely not pop into Banana Republic when they’re done denouncing waterboarding tactics?

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20 Responses to “Protesting at the Mall”


  1. 1 Ray L. July 28, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Why not allow them to protest right outside the front doors, similar to solicitors outside grocery stores. And while it’s probably in the owner’s interest to find a middle ground for PR purposes, it is private property after all…

  2. 2 Ray L. July 28, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    While it’s probably in Simon’s interest to find a middle ground here for PR purposes, it is private property after all. Why not allow them to protest outside the entrances…

  3. 3 Nancy H July 28, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I think that having to wade through, or pass by, a group of protesters is uncomfortable for anyone – and something that people avoid. In addition, I believe protesters are unlikely to actually shop for anything at the mall while protesting, unless they buy a sandwich at the food court to sustain their energy. In some cases, here in Arizona, we are seeing companies that actually hire day-laborers to sit on protest lines for them – and those folks definitely won’t be visiting Banana Republic with the measely $25 they get at the end of the day. So…yes, I think they would hurt sales, bother shoppers, and not contribute in any way to the mall. I think mall owners have the right to decide, based on what is going to be best for their business. As you said, there are lots of venues for people to voice their opinions, likes, and dislikes…like..say..a BLOG??

  4. 4 Susan July 29, 2008 at 8:51 am

    The reason that protesters want to have access to mall property is to take advantage of the traffic generated by the tenants of that mall…when a retailer wants to take advantage of the same traffic, he must pay rent!!! Also, the fact that any protesters want the use of the common area brings with it additional liability concerns … what insurance coverage or guarantees are provided by the group of protesters to protect the retailer or property owner? Lastly, the fact is that the implied warranty to a shopper visiting a mall is that they will not be disturbed by anything or anyone that they may consider offensive or intrusive. Malls and shopping centers are not the only “public” venue …If a group feels that they have the right to speak in public, then let them select a public park or library or streetcorner. Just because “the public” frequents a location does not make it a “public place”. Protesters have no right to enter private property for their own purposes.

  5. 5 E July 29, 2008 at 9:22 am

    I’m with Susan and Nancy H. It’s extremely uncomfortable trying to wade through these people at these area shopping malls.

    I think its akin to someone being allowed to protest in-front of a residential home at a busy intersection — the protesters have nothing against the home owner, but they ostensibly want to take advantage of the public side-walk, and feel they’re priviledged to, the homeowner and their right to privacy and peace be-damned.

    The retailers are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they “shoo” the protesters away, the retailers aren’t good, enabling “corporate citizens,” and somehow get embroiled in a free-speech fight that isn’t anything of the retailer’s making!

    Protesters want to reach a large audience, and they want to do it for free? Ha. Hire a hall, and leave the rest of us alone. Believe me, if a citizen wants to join an anti-war group, they will.

  6. 6 TeenyTiny July 29, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Simon wants it both ways: we’re private property owners, so the community can’t protest; while at the same time, they’re reaching into the city coffers when they want to get a mall development in play. You can’t have it both ways, David Simon.

  7. 7 MallMaven July 29, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Malls have become community gathering centers for profit, however, they have a higher obligation to give back to the community than a strip center. Even architecturally, malls reflect the values of a community. Throughout history, you could measure a society’s values and dominating influence by what is the largest building structure in the community. In ancient Greece and Rome, it was the Pantheon and Roman arena, therefore government and entertainment were dominant. In Medieval Europe, the largest structure was the cathedral, therefore the church was dominant. In the United States, typically, the largest structure in the community is the mall, and adequately reflects how dominant retail is to our economy as retail consumption drives two third’s (66%) of our GNP. So, I do believe that malls should allow the the gathering of protesters, if it requires a permit, then protesters must obtain one.

  8. 8 James July 30, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Malls are private property made available by private owners to the public for the public’s benefit. Protesters should stay on public property where local law enforcement has full jurisdiction and where their activities can be legally requlated.
    I would not recommend allowing a politicalization of the Mall, there are already serious concerns about the mall’s vulnerability to criminal terrorism. Think about it folks, do you really want your local mall to be the focus and gathering spot for societies zealots and extremists?? Does the spector of bombers and shooters concern you?
    Lets treat our Malls like Switzerland, neutral and available to everyone!

  9. 9 Susan July 30, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Malls are a grouping of retailers gathered in one location for the convenience of the customer and the resulting customer traffic benefit to the retailer. Large or small, dominant or not dominant, in present day U.S.A. it is private property. Can we talk about the taxes paid by the mall property to the local and state governments and the resulting benefits to ancillary businesses? That fulfulls a lot of obligations! Can we talk about higher employment in communities that have a mall? Boy, do they give back to the community! The mall operator and the retailers that pay rent to be in the mall have rights. Protesters do not have a right to occupy that property for their own purposes. Why not protest in front of their own homes if they believe so strongly in their views?

  10. 10 Jack July 30, 2008 at 9:50 am

    I love it when protesters say, “in some of these suburban communities the mall is the only place where people can gather and voice their opinions in person to a large audience.” That simply isn’t true. Why can’t they go to the 50 yard line during and NFL game? Or during the 7th inning stretch at a professional baseball game? There are way more people there than in front of Macy’s at the local mall. After all, most of those stadiums were built with tax payers money.

  11. 11 Dave July 31, 2008 at 9:00 am

    The mall is the only place to voice an opinion to a alrge audience? That is because they are fringe zealots with little to no support of a “normal” person. they protest because they have no life and nothing else to do with their time. If their argument had ANY logic or reason behind it there would be hundreds of thousands that would join in. Ever notice there are never more than 10 or so protesters?
    I live in a town with 59,000 and we see 5-6 protesters every saturday. they are fringe outcasts and should not invade private property

  12. 12 K July 31, 2008 at 9:48 am

    What the “H” is MallMaven talking about? I have never before read such gobblety gook on this matter — what a waste of words. The mall is where we go to get our Levi jeans. In essence, that is the ONLY reason the mall exists. Without the Levis the mall goes away. Without the protesters the mall is a happier place.

  13. 13 Jesse July 31, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Let em’ protest. The first amendment is the first amendment. I’m not gonna give up my purpose for coming to the mall in the first place – to buy something, because of a few noisy protesters. It’d be different if they were verbally assaulting people.

  14. 14 Nancy H July 31, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Personally, if there were protesters and demonstrations going on at the local mall every weekend, I’d stay home and shop online. THAT is what the PRIVATE mall owners are worried about. And they should be. There are very few of you out there, Jesse, who would be unfazed by a bunch of fanatics getting in your face and in your way to go to a store and buy a birthday gift for a friend. For some people, having to hear anyone rant or chant about their personal beliefs, complaints, or political agendas IS a verbal assault. The mall is private property. I wouldn’t want protesters pacing around my dinner table. I don’t want them in my mall.

  15. 15 James July 31, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Yikes folks your rights to free speech are protected on public property, there you can get a parade permit,or hand out flyers or a collection plate for donations if you want.
    Think of the range of possible protesters and their opposing factions who could or would show up on any given day at the mall. Do you think only the nice polite ones are going to be there. All of these people think their cause is just and deserves to be heard, this would quickly turn to chaos and violence. Do you really want a security check and metal detectors at a mall entrance?? Do you want to shop in fear of being possibly blown to bits, or caught in the crossfire? It is incomprehensible to me that any thinking American would suggest that a mall owner should allow protestors to demonstrate for ANY cause on their property. Mall owners should vehemently oppose this argument and we as patrons and citizens should support them.

  16. 16 GGolden August 1, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Petition tables are frequently set up outside grocery store front doors. Why should a mall reit be given more special privileges and considerations versus a neighborhood shopping center reit?

  17. 17 Mitch August 1, 2008 at 11:40 am

    To Dave:
    The true thinkers of any generation, are typically in the minority. Progress has never come from the masses.

  18. 18 MallMaven August 1, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    To K: Whether you know it, or like it, malls receive substantial subsidies from the community and have a stakeholder interest to give back to the community.

  19. 19 Susan August 4, 2008 at 8:56 am

    MallMaven – what subsidies are you speaking of? Is it related to the property taxes that malls pay? Is it related to the substantial sales tax generated by malls? Is it related to the income generated by the jobs – from construction to maintenance to sales – that malls bring to the community? I think it is an established fact that malls do give back to the community. Why should a mall owner jeopardize the environment in which they have invested and worked to create as well as the warranty that they have made to the rent-paying retailers and the customers who frequent that mall. Perhaps you must be a property owner before you can understand that protesters do not have rights on mall property … they are attempting to take away the rights of the property owners and their tenants to quiet enjoyment of their interests.

  20. 20 MallMaven August 6, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    As a tax paying citizen, why aren’t you more concerned that your hard earned money is going to subsidize multi-millionaire mall real estate developers via a multitude of tax breaks, financial incentives available in Federal Empowerment Zones, State Enterprise Zones, and City Tax Free Zones,financing, tax incentives, real estate, low-interest loans, job training programs, permits, and the like. Don’t you find it hypocritical for the mall developers to take free incentives when it is convenient to espouse the “we’re a big focal point of the community sales pitch” while conversely denying the community the ability to gather and collect a few petition signatures, similar to what every neighborhood shopping center real estate investment trust allows outside their grocery store doors.

    No one is denying that mall developers must pay their taxes, that is what every good citizen and corporation does, without much fanfare. However, being a good stakeholder in the community is a larger responsibility than merely paying one’s taxes.


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