Connecticut Supreme Court rules malls can block free speech
Posted by: Admin on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 – 06:00 AM GMT
According to a July 20, 2004 Hartford Courant article (common registration login with L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune):
In a seminal ruling 20 years ago, the state Supreme Court declared that shopping malls – although teeming with members of the public – are private properties that can ban political and other free speech activities from their premises.
And the high court is holding fast to the tenets of that ruling.
In a unanimous decision released Monday, the court rejected the appeal by a food and retail workers’ union that was denied access to the Crystal Mall in Waterford in 1997. The Connecticut Civil Liberties Union and the Council of Shopping Centers Inc. filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the case.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 919, AFL-CIO, had responded to an ad to participate in the "Crystal Mall Hometown Fair" on March 1, 1997. The mall advertised the event as "a day to take pride in your community. … Your civic group or non-profit organization can sell crafts, baked goods, sign up new members or simply distribute information."
The union took the mall up on the invitation, showed up to distribute information about employee rights, and was asked to leave. Mall officials told the union officials that they had misrepresented their intentions on their application for a booth.
And according to the decision itself:
the size of the mall, the number of patrons it serves, and the fact that the general public is invited to enter the mall free of charge do not, even when considered together, advance the plaintiff’s cause in converting private action into government action.
The photo below of the mall comes from mysticmore.com
Why, then, does the Fourteenth Amendment apply to shopping malls, but the First Amendment does not? In 1964, the U.S. Congress, in trying to balance First Amendment freedom of association with Fourteenth Amendment equal protection, floated the Civil Rights Act test balloon, which the Supreme Court quickly confirmed as being a valid application of the Fourteenth. If the Fourteenth applies to malls, why then does not the free speech provision of the First?
The issue is critical as traditional towns have not been platted out for a hundred years, but rather rural farms are now subdivided into large private tracts that become malls and gated communities, and the only public areas in suburbia are high-speed roads meant for cars, not people. No free speech in malls, and no free speech in churches. (See the Nov. 5, 2002 UnderReported.com story Post reports candidate speaks at church; may lose non-profit status as a result.)
For more on the privatization of the public realm, see the previous UnderReported.com stories:
- Sep. 15, 2003 Privatizing of the public realm restricting RFID protesters
- May 21, 2003 Suburban development: the new serfdom
- Mar. 5, 2003 Man arrested at mall for refusing to remove peace shirt purchased there
- Nov. 30, 2002 Grandmas arrested in front of Kroger for passing out fliers on GM foods