LONG ISLAND, NY. An 80-year-old church deacon was removed from the Smith Haven Mall yesterday in a wheelchair and arrested by police for refusing to remove a T-shirt protesting the Iraq War.Police said that Don Zirkel, of Bethpage, was disturbing shoppers at the Lake Grove mall with his T-shirt, which had what they described as “graphic anti-war images.” Zirkel, a deacon at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, said his shirt had the death tolls of American military personnel and Iraqis – 4,000 and 1 million – and the words “Dead” and “Enough.” The shirt also has three blotches resembling blood splatters.
Police said in a release last night that Zirkel was handing out anti-war pamphlets to mallgoers and that mall security told him to stop and turn his shirt inside out. Zirkel refused to turn his shirt inside out and wouldn’t leave, police said. Security placed him on “civilian arrest” and called police. When police arrived, Zirkel passively resisted attempts to bring him to a police car, the release said.
But Zirkel said he was sitting in the food court drinking coffee with his wife Marie, 77, and several others when police and mall security officers approached and demanded they remove their anti-war T-shirts.