Three mothers claim they were harassed by security guards while they were breastfeeding their children at the Concord Mall in Delaware Sunday afternoon.
Diana Hitchens, Autumne Murray and Jessica Hitchens all say their message was clear when they arrived at the Hollister store at the Concord Mall. The three women were staging a nurse-in to raise awareness about a woman’s right to breastfeed in public.
The protest from the three mothers was in response to an incident at a Houston, Texas mall in which a Hollister store manager threw out a mother who was breastfeeding inside the store. The mothers carried posters which read, “Hey Hollister, my baby has a right to eat. It’s the law,” as well as “Normalize breastfeeding in public. Do you eat in public? Why shouldn’t our babies?”
“We walked through the store and the employees asked if we needed help with anything,” said Diana Hitchens of Elkton, Md. “We were actually nursing as we were walking through the store.”
Credit: Diana Hitchens, Autumne Murray, Jessica Hitchens
But in the midst of their protest, the three mothers say they encountered some problems of their own. Moments after they staged a sit-in, mall security arrived.
“Two security guards walked up to us,” said Autumne Murray of Elkton, Md. “They started questioning us and asking us why we were exposing ourselves and saying that we needed to leave or cover up. We got in an argument with them about it for a little bit and then they left.”
When mall security returned, they brought along a Delaware State Trooper who was on routine patrol, according to state police.
“He was asking if we were exposing ourselves saying that the security guards said we were exposing ourselves and that we could be kicked out of the mall if we didn’t cover up,” said Murray.
Delaware State Police tell NBC10 they consider the incident a “civil matter” between the three women and the mall. The issue escalated however when websites supporting the nursing moms began sharing their story.
The blog Jubilee Baby Co. posted a screenshot of a Facebook Poster with the name “Concord Mall” calling the breastfeeding moms “an eyesore.” The blog claimed the post was made on the Concord Mall Facebook page and that it was quickly deleted.
However, the Concord Mall’s operations manager, who did not return NBC10’s calls, posted a message on a breastfeeding community’s events page, denying that the post came from a Concord Mall representative. The manager also claimed the contract security officer involved in Saturday’s incident was immediately removed from the mall. The manager stated the following:
The Concord Mall does not have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Whoever posted these comments did so without the knowledge or authorization of the Concord Mall.
The only way that the Concord Mall communicates on line is through the mall’s official website. The contract security officer involved in this unfortunate incident was immediately removed from the Concord Mall. The Delaware State Police were not called because a woman was breastfeeding their child. The State Police patrol the mall as a usual patrol and came up on the security officer and the women arguing. The trooper intervened and the security officer was removed and sent home pending further action.
The security officer involved is not employed by the Concord mall and the Concord Mall finds his actions unacceptable.
NBC10 checked to see if the Concord Mall actually had a Facebook Page. While there is a link to a Facebook page on their official website, the link does not open, indicating that it may have been deleted.
The mall released another statement Monday that stated the following:
On Saturday January 5, there was a protest organized at the Hollister store regarding a mother’s right to breastfeed her child. Two officers from a security agency that works with the Mall responded to the protest in a manner that the protesters have indicated was inappropriate. These two officers have been removed from the Mall pending further investigation.
The Concord Mall has never had an issue with any mother breastfeeding her children in the Mall and intends to fully comply with the law permitting this activity. We apologize to our customers and tenants and the protesters for any inconvenience this situation may have caused. The Concord Mall is making every effort to properly train all officers regarding a mother’s right to breastfeed her child.
In addition to this issue, there were anonymous postings on a Facebook page shortly after this event occurred allegedly generated by the Concord Mall. These posts were crude and offensive and were not posted nor authorized by the Concord Mall. The Mall does not have an official Facebook page and communicates via its web-site. There is a Facebook icon on our homepage, however the account has never been officially in use by the Mall.
We are in the process of contacting Facebook to report these violations and hope to find the person or persons responsible for these posts. Again, neither the Concord Mall nor anyone authorized to speak on behalf of the Concord Mall made these posts to this unofficial Facebook page.
“We’d like them to be more educated about the law for nursing in public,” said Jessica Hitchens of Newark, Delaware.
According to Delaware state law, women are allowed to breastfeed in any public or private location.