You’re just a gal taking a break from mall shopping, sitting on a bench for a breather, and you give your girlfriend a kiss on the cheek. In an all too familiar set of circumstances, Jessica Garcia and her girlfriend took part in that very scenario — before being kicked out of the mall by security and then arrested for “trespassing.”
As Garcia tells it, after mall security witnessed the kiss (on Dec. 26), they told them they were exhibiting inappropriate behavior. “This is a family mall, y’all can’t do this,” said the mall cop, according to Garcia. “Y’all kissed, and if y’all do it again I’m going to write you a citation or I’m going to kick y’all out.” Reports the San Antonio Express-News:
Garcia said she and her girlfriend [both 22] were bothered by the officer’s comments and told him they weren’t kissing.
Pardue initially said it was the kissing that gained the officers’ attention, but she later clarified that the officers approached the women to tell them to sit properly on the bench.
She said one of the women was sitting on the other’s lap — a claim Garcia disputes. Garcia said her girlfriend had the lower portion of her leg around hers, from the knee down. She said neither was sitting on top of the other.
“They (the officers) passed people who were kissing and they didn’t tell them anything, but they came to us,” Garcia said. “We didn’t even kiss. All she did is she kissed me on my cheek. There’s no other way to explain it. They discriminated against us.”
Both Garcia and Pardue agree the incident escalated after that.
Pardue said the women complied briefly with the officer’s request, but once the officers began walking away, they continued to engage in an “activity that was not appropriate for the public.”
She said that at that point, the officers told the women to leave.
Garcia said she and her girlfriend walked out of the mall, but re-entered through another entrance in order to take a shortcut to their car, which was parked on the other side.
Pardue said that when security found the women back inside the mall, they were confronted about trespassing, and that’s when the women became disruptive and physical with the officers.
Garcia said she attempted to tell the officers she was merely trying to get to her car, but the officers kept harassing her and her girlfriend and the situation deteriorated.
In the end, she was charged with trespassing, resisting arrest and assault on a peace officer, while her girlfriend was charged with trespassing.
Pardue said the mall’s code of conduct is posted at all its entrances, stating disruptive or disorderly conduct isn’t tolerated. It says nothing about kissing, however.
And now, Garcia is suing for discrimination. Naturally, the mall disagrees with her version of events:
Danielle Pardue, the mall’s marketing director, denies the women’s claims of discrimination and said security officers would evict anyone found kissing in the mall, regardless of sexual orientation.
“If our security officer feels that is disruptive to our shoppers and our business, then they have that authority to make that determination,” she said. “It’s their responsibility to make sure our shopping place is an enjoyable shopping place for everyone to be.”
Pardue also stressed that contrary to what the women claim, they weren’t arrested because they were kissing, but because they re-entered the mall after being told to leave.
But let’s not kid ourselves. While we can’t claim any firsthand knowledge, it’s ridiculous to think mall cops would kick out a straight couple who exchanged a kiss, or were sitting on each other’s laps. A free gift card to Jamba Juice is definitely in order.