A group of steampunk cosplayers arranged to meet up at Westfield Plaza Camino Real near San Diego to ride the mall's Victorian carousel. But Westfield's mall cops were terrified of the cosplayers and evicted them all, escorting them to the door, calling the cops, and making them wait until the police arrived (the police basically shrugged and said, "Look, it's stupid, but it's their mall").
The mall cops — and their corporate overlords — cited a variety of dumb policies in support of the action, including a ban on wearing costumes that obscured the wearer's face (which didn't describe the cosplayers' outfits), a ban on gathering in groups larger than three (ORLY), a ban on photography without the subjects' permission (the steampunks, having gathered to have their photos taken, can be presumed to have consented to the pictures). Basically, it's a case of mall cop authoritarianism followed by the usual bland corporate doubling-down.
Of course, kids — especially kids who happen to be brown — already know that malls are capricious and fraught replacements for the public square. Mall cops basically hate anything that doesn't accord with their view of what a shopper should be and relentlessly discriminate against anyone they don't like. Back when I was in high school, more than half of my school had been banned from College Park, the mall in Toronto that was across the street from the school, by sneering jerks from Intercon security, who had the full backing of their management and the mall management.
The irony of ejecting people for wearing steampunk clothes in rich: malls are full of steampunk-inflected clothing, as the commodification mills of the fashion industry relentlessly mine subculture for new looks to put under glass. And here, too, is another parallel to the much more widespread discrimination against brown kids, who are often ejected on the pretense of wearing "gang" clothes — clothes whose styles have been snaffled up, denatured, and repackaged for sale in the stores whose rent keeps the mall in business.
My family (four of us, three dressed in Victorian clothing) arrived early to eat lunch before riding the carousel. We parked near the entrance with the carousel and began walking down the mall to find a restaurant. We saw two other people from the group walking the other way. We found a McDonald's and since the choices at the mall seemed rather limited and 1pm would come up soon, we ordered our food and sat down to eat. It was only a minute or so later when we were approached by a security guard who said we had to leave. You can imagine our surprise….
…We asked to see the policy and were told we could not. We asked to see the manager (either go to him or have him brought to us) and were told no. We were also told that they were calling the police. We were allowed to finish our lunch but the guard had to stand over us and escort us out.
While we were finishing, the other two people whom we had passed earlier returned, followed by their own security guard. They had gone through the same procedure and had asked the guard if they could come see us before leaving. Having now finished eating, we all left for the door by the carousel.
When we got there, we found more people had arrived, and a guard at the door was not letting them beyond the entrance to the mall. The security guards said we had to wait outside for the police.
Steampunk Carousel Outing Cut Short By Security Guards [Kim Keeline/KPBS]
(Photo: Laura Lusk)