By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
They were spoken to by mall security. The group left. They plan to return to an out-of-the-way private meeting room at 6 p.m. this Saturday, at the mall manager's invitation, for another meeting. Then they plan to put on rainbow-colored accessories and have a rally at the mall.
What's the rest of the story? Well, that's a good question. According to an e-mail "news alert" circulated by (PRIZM!), the head of mall security first told those at the meeting they had to remove a sign-up sheet. They did. He also told them they had to take the rainbow flag from their table, because it was offensive to other customers, who apparently were idiots. They did. Then he told them they had to remove offensive clothing--e.g. a PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) T-shirt--not only from their persons, but from the mall property, again because it was offensive. They did.
Then they were told groups of more than four aren't allowed to gather in the mall. Just scram, or the cops would be called, charges would be filed, etc.
Buzz called Jim Foster, the mall's general manager, to get his side of the story. He (surprise!) said there was no story. Oh, sure, the kids were told to break it up, but that was because they had pushed 15 tables together, which was disruptive. Fair enough, though one attendee said it was only four tables. Besides, the mall's tables wobble if you move them around, and the joint's insurance company doesn't like that. (Foster really said that.) As for the rest of the group's claims, which pretty much add up to a big ugly "get lost, faggots," Foster says that's just hearsay, because no one at the meeting has produced a signed affidavit attesting to the claims, so they don't count. He couldn't imagine why a young gay person who had been hassled by mall rent-a-cops for the sin of going to a food court wouldn't sign something. He doesn't have much imagination.
He does, however, claim to have a videotape showing 12 to 15 tables pushed together--musta been a big meeting, though a spokesman for (PRIZM!) says only 12 or so people were there. Buzz asked to see the tape. No, Foster said, that's private property. He says he also has a written account from his head of security that answers, point by point, each claim in (PRIZM!)'s e-mail, though the e-mail doesn't count nohow since it wasn't signed. Buzz asked what the statement said. Foster wouldn't tell us. It's super-duper double top secret, at least until he gets his hands on a conflicting signed affidavit. Were the kids told to remove articles of clothing? No affidavit, no answer to that question. Were they threatened with criminal trespass charges? No affidavit, no answer. Foster just wants to get to the truth, he says, but the truth only counts if it's in writing, which we guess we wouldn't be allowed to see. Really, he insisted, there's no story here, just the work of instigators who took it in their heads to embroil Town East in a needless controversy. Yeah, well, you know GLBT teens, Jim. What else do they have to worry about?
Our interview with Foster was not what you might call productive, truthwise, though if you've ever been in the news biz, you'll understand why we say it's the most fun we've had on the job in ages.
As for the objective Truth, which Foster insisted 200 or 300 times was all he was seeking--as long as it was in writing and signed and was secret, presumably--Buzz wasn't able to quite nail that down. So here's some subjective opinion instead: The non-homophobic among you should show up for the meeting at 6 p.m. (You'll have to search for the meeting room.) You should wear mall-inappropriate clothing. Hold hands even. But whatever you do, don't buy anything. Ever.