ALBANY, N.Y. – A man wearing a "Peace on Earth, Give Peace a Chance" T-shirt in a shopping mall says he was arrested because he refused to take the shirt off, but the mall says he was nabbed for bothering other shoppers.
Security guards approached Stephen Downs, 61, and his 31-year-old son, Roger, on Monday night after they were spotted wearing the T-shirts at Crossgates Mall in a suburb of Albany, N.Y., the men said.
The two said they were asked to remove the shirts made at a store there — or leave the mall. They refused.
The guards returned with a police officer who repeated the ultimatum. The son took his T-shirt off, but the father refused.
"'I said, 'All right then, arrest me if you have to,'" Downs said. "So that's what they did. They put the handcuffs on and took me away."
A statement released by the mall painted a different picture of what happened.
"Crossgates Mall security received a complaint regarding two individuals disrupting customers. The individuals were approached by security because of their actions and interference with other shoppers," the statement read.
"Their behavior, coupled with their clothing to express to others their personal views on world affairs, were disruptive of customers."
Downs pleaded innocent to the charges Monday night. The New York Civil Liberties Union said it would help with his case if asked.
Police Chief James Murley said his officers were just responding to a complaint by mall security.
"We don't care what they have on their shirts, but they were asked to leave the property, and it's private property," Murley said.
The mall said that as a private property, it has the court-approved right "to restrict actions and behaviors deemed inconsistent with its intended purpose."
Crossgates Mall's rules "strictly prohibit loitering, disorderly or disruptive conduct, harassment, offensive language, fighting or any illegal activity," the statement read. "The Mall will not tolerate violations of these regulations. In this instance, mall management, given the information provided to them, determined the customers in question were violating mall policy."
Monday's arrest came less than three months after about 20 peace activists wearing similar T-shirts were told to leave by mall security and police. There were no arrests.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.