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Commentary :: Globalization : Human Rights
Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
25 Jul 2005
Having spent a childhood hanging out, working at, loving, and hating local malls, it was with disbelief that this commentator read a piece in the July 13 edition of The Republican (Springfield, MA) that says that the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside has instituted an "MB18" ("Must Be 18") policy on Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to closing at the facility--after some "success" with similar rules at other malls owned by The Pyramid Companies.

Any teenagers under 18 during those periods who are not accompanied by an adult, will be targetted by mall cops and escorted from the premises. Mall owners claim that racial profiling will not be involved in such targettings, but interestingly, Pyramid is instituting the policy in the relatively urban Holyoke mall frequented by that city's burgeoning Latino population, but not at the Hampshire Mall in more rural Hadley, MA, which it also owns. The Eastfield Mall in urban Springfield, MA, owned by Mountain Development Corp. of New Jersey, is planning to implement a similar policy.
By the 1980s, as elsewhere in the country, most Massachusetts cities and towns had seen their commercial downtowns laid waste in the rush by businesses to set up shop in one of the Commonwealth's many regional malls. These new merchant-driven institutions had lots of problems from the get-go--starting with their being creations of the American cult of the automobile, and the newfangled necessity of regularly driving extra miles to purchase goods and services that had previously been available in more accessible urban cores. Served by public transportation in the days before the auto and oil industries conspired to wipe out the once-vast streetcar network and worked to torpedo any talk of expanding public transportation to the new suburbs.

Unlike traditional business districts, mall space was technically private space, not public, and mall owners around the country fought all efforts to bring democracy to their private little kingdoms. Political group after political group fought for the right to canvas, demonstrate, or just hand out literature at malls--only to be rebuffed by courts defending property rights over democratic rights. Malls were allowed to pick and choose which organizations and religious groups would get the right to free speech and which wouldn't. Usually progresssive organizations were left, often literally, out in the cold. While conservative groups (a LaRouche front organization called the L-5 Society springs to mind) were more likely to get a free pass.

Yet, for teenagers, court decisions or no court decisions, malls offered some of the only available public space to hang out at, and in the endless winters of the northeast, pretty much the only significant indoor space. And when youth programs of all kinds fell to the Reagan-era budget ax, not only were many working and middle class young people left without recreational alternatives, but they were also left without jobs. The destruction of public youth jobs programs in particular meant that the only jobs left were low-paying mall jobs.

The mall economy blossomed on the back of teenage labor. As it does today, with the addition of increasingly desperate workers of all ages forced to take 2-3 bad jobs to make ends meet.

Thus far unaddressed is how under-18 mall workers are going to be able to get to work at Holyoke if they come in unescorted on Friday or Saturday evenings--when they work most of their weekly hours. In addition, the culture of consumption fostered by American malls has shamelessly targetted teenagers, and the now $100 billion they spend at malls. Much of which is spent on weekends. Left unstated is how precisely malls will seperate teenagers from the money they earn at the mall jobs they will now have difficulty getting to at times, if they are not free to shop as they will.

More important, however, is the looming question of civil liberties. Why should a private institution have the right to enact an ageist policy that massively infringes on the rights of teenagers to move and gather freely in a space that, past corporate legal chicanary to the contrary, is clearly public? Whether they make purchases or not, and whether they are at work or not. Plus the idea that the almost comically under-trained, psychologically damaged, and generally viscious martinets that are hired as mall cops are being given the authority to stop-and-search teenagers at will on Fridays and Saturdays, strains credulity.

Corporations should not have the ability to stop the Constitution and the Bill of Rights at their doors. Fridays, Saturdays or any other days. Mall owners should not be allowed to stop teenagers from exercising their rights to freedom of assembly. This policy cries out for both legal and grassroots challenges. The ACLU and other public-spirited legal organizations should look into civil liberties test suits on this issue. And the people of Western Massachusetts, teenagers in the fore, should start directly protesting at the Holyoke Mall right away. If people would like MGA's help in organizing such protests, just drop us a line.

Malls may suck, but giving malls the power to violate teenagers rights sucks a lot worse.
See also:
http://www.massglobalaction.org/blog/serendipity/index.php?/archives/10-Holyoke-Mall-Now-a-Weekend-No-Teenager-Zone.html

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Comments

Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
25 Jul 2005
boycott the Mall
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
25 Jul 2005
Nice artilce. Having grown up 15 minutes away from the Holyoke Mall and having spent many a day as a mall rat I can say this about the new policy:

1. It will definitely increase the already exisiting racial profiling tactics used by the pigs since I was a youngster.

2. Holyoke and Springfield offer very little refuge from the crime ridden streets and while drugs deals and other mischief goes down at the mall it did serve as a place to hang out on a weekend night and not worry about getting stabbed, jumped, etc. With the absence of this refuge (a shitty one at that) kids are litterally being pushed out onto the streets to face danger.

Instead of just booting kids out onto the street forms of free or affordable entertainment need to be provided by the city and the local community. I agree- boycott the mall, but boycotting the mall needs to be coupled with creating some outlet for these young folks.
Who cares? I guess this forum does...
25 Jul 2005
Back in my day, there were plenty of places to hang out besides the mall. Somebody's parents who liked you, some dude's house, any square w/ foot traffic, or the woods. It's not like you can smoke up in the Gap. (get chills thinking of that store) And besides the point, most kids in the mall are SHOPLIFTING, and that includes every race. Lotion costs 20 bucks a bottle, no wonder kids are acting like punks. And they like pulling the fire alarm too...
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
25 Jul 2005
What good will it do to boycott a mall? They are being thrown out. The people who actually shop may be more inclined to shop there without the mallrats.
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
26 Jul 2005
I had some friends who thought hanging out at the Holyoke mall was fun. That had to be the most crap I had done in my teenage years. (Besides sit in some classroom, etc.) Luckily I only made the mistake of going with them a couple times before I realized absolutely nothing of interest is ever going to occur in a giant building that is designed to facilitate consumption.

Now the kids can go outside of that corporate consumer zone and do something worthwhile.
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
27 Jul 2005
Last time I checked Holyoke had some draconian "policing" policies put in place where cops were just grabbing folks right off the street at random and doing searches, etc. this mall crap just puts more kids in the streets to get fucked with.
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
27 Jul 2005
malls are disgusting places anyway, aren't they?
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
27 Jul 2005
This is the kind of mess that can happen when the primary public spaces in a community- where people come together to eat, shop, talk, shop etc. are actually PRIVATE spaces.

So now- in addition to teenagers being thrown out- anyone who "looks young" and perhaps fits a certain profile will be asked to show their ID to prove that they have a right to be there- sounds like apartheid to me.
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
28 Jul 2005
All of you seem to miss the point that malls are <b>private</b> spaces, not public. You may lament this, but the appropriate response is to agitate for public spaces that meet the needs of your community.
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
28 Jul 2005
No tim, you are the one missing the point. Malls have become de facto public spaces because they soak up all of the people who would be downtown, had the mall not put downtown out of business. There are literally dozens of small cities and towns across MA in which the town center has become a wasteland of boarded up buildings and corner convenience stores, thanks to all the Simon and Pyramid malls and the ubiquitous Wal-Marts and Targets. In a lot of these places, malls have become the new Main Street, a place where young people meet, congregate, and socialize. Your idea of petitioning local government for more public spaces in laughable in a city/town environment where teachers have to make photocopies of textbook pages to give to their students because there's too little money in the town budget for every kid to get a textbook, and where developers often dominate the policies of local planning boards.
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
28 Jul 2005
Machetejames--just because you decide someone else's property is public doesn't make it so. Perhaps I should commandeer your living room as a "public" space for teens...
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
28 Jul 2005
Again tim, you miss the point.

The developers who built the mall have access to resources and political leverage that an individual or grassroots organization demanding the establishment of more good public spaces does not have. In other words, it's akin to throwing pebbles at a giant.

If malls want to prosper and allow their client stores to make money, then they will either operate as de facto public spaces, or go under. The reason for this is because, as I said before, indoor malls have taken up the slack caused by the hollowing out of downtown areas - a hollowing out that they and the "big boxes" help bring about..
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
29 Jul 2005
The same thing has been going on for a while now at my hometown mall. However, I for one didn't think much of it since I don't live around their anymore and never hung out at the mall to begin with.
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
29 Jul 2005
wouldn't this move hurt commerce? the mall's stores are targeted primarily at young people....
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
30 Jul 2005
It's not *your* property, it's *their* property.

Get over it.
read the constitution
30 Jul 2005
right of association also means that you can decide with whom you do NOT want to associated in a private setting

the mall can have the policy it wants in this respect
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
01 Aug 2005
Oki, malls are private property, so as stupid as it is, they can deny teens the right to go there during certain times... though I really don't know why a commercial center would really want to deny potential customers anyways. *shrugs*

Anyways, if you're against this you should spread the word and boycott any malls which implant this act.
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
01 Aug 2005
Boycott? You mean you won't go to the mall? What difference will that make, you are being thrown out. I agree with them. It is their private property and they don't want mallrats hanging around.
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
01 Aug 2005
I've lived in New England and the Mid-West and I have heard many "heat wave" warnings that advise people to stay indoors, to use air conditioners and to drink lots of liquids, to stay out of the sun.

I have also heard warnings given that tell people who don't have air-conditioning, i.e. are poor, to go to places like malls or movie theatres where they can sit out the heat of the day when the highest risk of dehydration or death are.

Not only is this an ironic racially and ageist related bit of discrimination, it's also something that discriminates against poor.

Gotta love those grasping hands of corporate america. No window shopping and a/c hitchhiking for you!
Re: Holyoke Mall Now a Weekend No-Teenager Zone
01 Aug 2005
did you know that the boston public library has extended hours in the winter so that the homeless can have a warm place to go to since there aren't enough shelters? in the summer they have limited weekend hours, but in the winter they are open as late as they can be to keep the homeless that our politicians would have freeze on the street warm.