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Busted For Wearing A Scarf

Gwendolyn Cogshell thought she was dressed just right. At a St. Louis Rams rally last fall at a popular shopping mall, the 45-year-old postal worker wore a team jersey with a matching blue scarf to hold back her hair.

But soon after entering St. Louis Union Station, Cogshell found herself handcuffed, forced up against a wall and eventually forcibly removed, she recalled Tuesday. The reason: She refused to take off the scarf in violation of a mall prohibition on certain types of clothing.

"It was humiliating," Cogshell said.

The shopping mall is under fire from protesters who claim the mall's dress rules are racist and aimed squarely at blacks. The mall's code of conduct prohibits "gang related paraphernalia" including bandanas, do rags and hats tilted to the side. The policy also bans "flashing gang signs" and rolled-up sleeves or pant legs.

About 200 people rallied outside and briefly marched through Union Station on Tuesday. The Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network has warned blacks to stay away from the mall.

"Years ago this station had a sign outside that said, `Whites Only,'" St. Louis radio personality Lizz Brown said. "They took down the sign but they continued the policy."

Mall officials declined to comment beyond a statement issued Monday, which outlined their code of conduct that was upgraded about two years ago because of increasing crime. Since the new policy went into effect, retail sales and store occupancy have risen, the statement read.

Other malls have similar codes of conduct, including many in the St. Louis area.

Union Station was for years the city's grand passenger train depot. Train service ceased in 1978 but the station reopened seven years later, housing a hotel and an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. It draws about 6 million visitors annually — making it one of the region's biggest tourist attractions.

On Tuesday, a sign at Union Station's courtesy desk noted that the clothing provision of the code of conduct was being waived until 5 p.m. that day because of the rally. As a result, protesters - many donning banned apparel - were free to walk about the shopping areas.

Police and mall security stood nearby, but did not intervene. No arrests were made.

The Rev. Horace Sheffield III of Detroit, one of the rally organizers, pledged an even bigger rally May 20 unless the mall changes its policy.

Inside the mall, Cliff Soanner, 20, of St. Louis, wore a tilted, backward Cardinals cap as he shopped with his girlfriend and baby daughter. He wasn't part of the protest, and said he didn't notice a nearby sign outlining the code of conduct.

"It doesn't bother me," he said. "I won't change."


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