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posted March 1, 2004
On the first farmersí market day in March the farmers were lined up in front of the rink house to unload their food, when park staff member Caitlin heard some angry shouting and she ran out to take a look. Not ten feet from the front door, two men were shouting at a man sitting on the bench, and they seemed to be pushing him around. Caitlin asked what was going on. The two men said they were Wal-Mart Security, and one man flashed his badge at her and told her to go away "for her own good." But Caitlin hadnít been able to see the badge clearly, only the words "Wal-Mart," before he put it away again and shouted at the man on the bench some more. Alarmed at the situation, Caitlin didnít go away. The men (not in uniform) told her that she was interfering with their investigation, that she had no right to be there, and that she might herself be arrested if she didnít leave.
At that point Jutta came out of the rink house and found the two men apparently trying to force the man on the bench to come with them. The man was protesting, the Wal-Mart men were shouting, the farmers were backing away - a mess! And Juttaís arrival didnít help. The Wal-Mart men told her that she, too, was in danger -- of maybe being knifed by the man sitting on the bench, or of being arrested for "interfering with their investigation." Jutta said she didnít think the man would stab her and that she didnít intend to interfere, but that she wasnít leaving either. They said she hasnít allowed to stand there. But she did anyway. The Wal-Mart men called the police, the park staff called the Wal-Mart manager, and then everyone stood around and waited, still arguing.
Waiting sometimes helps. When tempers had calmed a bit, it emerged that the man on the bench had been seen on Wal-Martís closed circuit cameras, walking through the store. But he wasnít allowed to be in the mall because a year before he had been caught stealing shower curtains, and part of his sentence was to stay off mall property. So when the guards saw him on the video, they went running to find him. They found him at our park.
The man on the bench said it was true what the guards said. He said he knew he shouldnít go into the mall but that winter was cold and the mall was way more pleasant than out on the sidewalk. He said the guards had given him a few warnings to stay away, and he knew they were right, but he had always weakened and returned again. The guards told him that now he was in much bigger trouble, that heíd have a lifetime ban and on top of that he would be charged with resisting arrest. Apparently that charge was because the man had refused to come back to Wal-Mart with the guards when they found him sitting on our park bench.
However when the police arrived, they made no arrest, just gave the man a ticket for trespassing. The Wal-Mart guards left. The man on the bench sat there for a while, folding the ticket over and over, and the n he left too. And since the Wal-Mart manager, Wayne MacLean, had never showed up, Jutta went inside the rink house and called him again. She asked him whether the storeís plain-clothes security guards have the power to order park staff to leave park property, whether they can charge someone with "resisting arrest," whether they can try to force someone to accompany them. He said they are licensed by the Toronto police, and that Jutta could find out the answers from the police, but that he was not interested in sharing what Wal-Mart security guards can and canít do.
Sigh. This means weíll have to look into it ourselves. He could have saved us the effort by just telling us. But friendly, candid talk is underrated. So weíll have to do some digging. Any information from the neighbourhood is welcome: to be continued...