Shopping centers that don’t allow soliciting aren’t allowing the Salvation Army to solicit, Liz Palka reports for CBS-19, and I get the impression that we’re supposed to be angry about that. The Salvation Army is singling out both CVS and Harris Teeter, neither of which allow solicitation on their property, saying that they’ve raised $22,000 less than last year as a result of having fewer locations to show up at. (Is $22,000 a lot? Palka tells us it’s “staggering,” but without knowing what percentage of the total that comprises, viewers can’t have any idea.) They’ve tried to set up at other places, but those places have also said that they’re not interested in having somebody ring a bell and ask for money next to their front door. Of course, there are lots of charities all over Charlottesville that would like your support, and the Salvation Army is set up in locations throughout town, so the fact this particular charity isn’t in front of these two particular stores shouldn’t be an obstacle to people helping the less fortunate this Christmas season.
Shopping centers are private property, and they don’t allow the sorts of things that are permitted on public property (like the Downtown Mall)—juggling, guitar playing, protesting, soliciting, or even just standing around. These places look public, but it’s a simulation of public property—you have no First Amendment rights there. Whether or not you think that the loss of that makes these places better or worse than real public space is up to you. You’ll recall that House of Delegates candidate Rich Collins was arrested for campaigning in a shopping center back in 2005 in a dispute over the same matter.