Smith Haven Mall Drops Charges Agains Peace Activists

May 22:

The charges brought against two peace activists who participated in a demonstration at the Smith Haven Mall in March were dismissed on May 22 in Suffolk County Court in Central Islip.

The Suffolk Assistant District Attorney stated that the charges of disorderly conduct against Susan Steinmann were being dropped 'in the interest of justice'. On March 29 Ms. Steinmann refused a Suffolk Policeman's command to stop reading the names of the Iraq war dead in the Mall. Don Zirkel an 80 year old peace activist was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after he refused to take off a T-shirt with an anti-war message while eating lunch in the mall's courtyard.

Before the court appearance the activists stated
"Our purpose is to put the Iraq War on trial -- The war is wrong, The war is criminal … Not the peace activists. Additionally, we challenge the Mall's right to limit freedom of speech."
Susan McKeon Steinmann, a member of South Country Peace Group, who was arrested for reading the names of American soldiers killed in Iraq at the center of the Mall, said,
"It is ironic that mall personnel told me they wanted to create a 'pleasant shopping
environment' for their customers. It is immoral that I was arrested for reading the names of the dead. Calling attention to the human cost of this war is of a higher moral order than maintaining a pleasant shopping environment. As an American citizen, and as a person who truly believes in the sanctity of human life, I chose to speak out."
With the charges dropped the issue of whether free speech in a public space of a privately owned shopping mall will not be decided. Also the opportunity to put the war on trial rather than the activists was lost. And this must be why the charges were dropped.