Beth Shayne, WCNC-TV (Charlotte, North Carolina), July 22, 2009
“Al Qaeda’s favorite days: 9/11/01 and 11/04/08.”
“Work Harder. Obama needs the money.”
The bumper stickers and posters sold at “Free Market Warrior” at Concord Mills are meant to be “biting,” the kiosk’s owner Loren Spivack said.
At least one passerby found them racist and bigoted, and took time to tell the mall in a letter and a letter to the editor of the Charlotte Observer.
Whatever your opinion, the fact is this: At the end of July, Free Market Warrior will not be allowed at Concord Mills Mall. The kiosk chain’s owner shared e-mail correspondence with NewsChannel 36 that explains that the mall management has decided that the items sold are not “neutral” enough. The lease will be allowed to expire July 31, 2009 without an option to renew.
Spivack says he is careful not to sell things that personally attack a politician and wants a fair exchange of ideas. “The material that I sell is about politics and ideas,” he told Newschannel 36. “It’s all legitimate criticism.”
Spivack says the company first contacted him about his lease after a letter to the editor appeared in the Charlotte Observer. The author, recent UNC-Charlotte graduate Jennifer Ibanez, wrote:
“Free Market Warrior, a kiosk located adjacent to Bass Pro Shops, specializes in memorabilia embellished with pro-confederacy statements as well as those opposing both the government and President Obama. In addition, these products support ideas such as racisms, sexism, and even slavery. While freedom of speech is a Constitutional right it’s difficult not to believe that something just isn’t quite right here.
“I find it appalling that Concord Mills, North Carolina’s #1 visitor attraction, would condone such a message to be portrayed by their vendors and can’t imagine how the outside visitors’ perceptions of North Carolinians have been skewed by such an establishment.
“It’s hard to stay open-minded when such uncivilized and outdated ideas are endorsed on a daily basis. It’s 2009; please, let’s at least try to put this type of bigotry to an end.”
Ibanez told NewsChannel 36 she was so offended, she wrote the mall as well. She says a friend of hers also wrote in. Both threatened not to return to Concord Mills.
The owner of the mall group, Mel Simon, has been a generous contributor to Democratic causes and politicians, including Barack Obama. Spivack thinks the decision about his lease is political.
“If they have decided to make their malls conservative/libertarian free zones, where those opinions can’t be expressed, I do think it’s their right to do that, but it’s our rights to publicize the fact that they are doing that,” he said.
NewsChannel 36 has been swamped with e-mails and comments on this story. A spokesperson for the mall did not return a call Thursday about the e-mails, which were hand-carried to the office by reporter Rad Berky. A receptionist unlocked a door and took the e-mails but we don’t know if anyone read them
[Editors Note: The Concord Mills Feedback page can be found here.]