Mall cops in San Diego did nothing to improve the reputation of their hilarious profession this month when they evicted a small group of steam punk cosplayers from the Westfield Plaza Camino Real shopping center in Carlsbad–and then called actual cops on the “riff raff.” I mean, I don’t like Firefly either, but come on.
Kim Keeline and her family were part of a group of twenty-five cosplayers evicted from the mall on February 9th by an unidentified mall cop. The steampunk cosplay group regularly meets to ride merry go rounds, and had chosen Carlsbad for its historic carousel.
While dining in the mall’s McDonald’s, the group of mostly families was approached (presumably segwayed up to) by a mall cop who told them to take their anachronistic ways elsewhere and then requested backup from Oceanside Police.
Before being evicted the cosplayers were read what the security guard called their policy for keeping out “riff-raff.” The mall’s rules state that patrons “wearing apparel or gesturing in a manner which is likely to provoke a disturbance or embroil other groups or the general public in open conflict” are prohibited.
The mall policy also prohibits “congregating and loitering in groups of three (3) or more which hinders or interferes with the flow of other shoppers or obstructs entryways or walkways”–which basically rules out most teenagers, and would probably be a terrible policy for business if it wasn’t just a convenient way of targeting certain groups.
As Keeline says in an article for KPBS, “this code is clearly there to be ignored most of the time or everyone would be kicked out. The code is so broad so they have an excuse when they want someone out.”
Being evicted from a mall as opposed to, say, a restaurant may be especially upsetting since the atmosphere provided by shopping centers often makes us forget that we are enjoying a private establishment and not a public place.
Cory Doctorow says in his article for Boing Boing, “Of course, kids — especially kids who happen to be brown — already know that malls are capricious and fraught replacements for the public square.” And it’s certainly disconcerting when our adopted public squares are so eager to refuse the business of differently-dressed people.
Plaza Camino Real issued this statement in response to the cosplay controversy:
Westfield welcomes all shoppers to visit our shopping centers and asks they abide by our centers’ code of conduct during their visit for safety and security reasons.
The mall also said they would welcome the cosplayers in the future, as long as they “warn” the center they’ll be coming first — mall cops are very scared of top hats and watch chains.
As for the cosplayers, Keeline says that although they were “stunn[ed]” by the turn of events, they didn’t allow the Mall Cop to ruin their day, and moved the event to Dr. Watson’s Steampunk Odditorium.
That sounds like a lot more fun than a food court at Mcdonald’s, so who’s laughing now, mall?
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