By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – The Mall at Barnes Crossing has apologized for a Saturday incident where a group of breast feeding moms was asked to disperse.
“Obviously, yesterday we made a mistake,” said Jeff Snyder in an apology issued on Facebook on Sunday. “All of our employees will be briefed on how to handle this type situation in the future.”
Around 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, a group of seven breast-feeding mothers gathered at the Tupelo mall to participate in the annual Big Latch On event where across the country moms simultaneously breast feed, said Toni Hill, Lee County La Leche League leader and organizer for the event.
Before the breast feeding began, the group, which included another several family members, gathered in the play area adjacent to the food court to do paperwork and take a group picture, Hill said. A security guard advised the group not to take pictures.
After the moms and babies participated in the minute-long Latch On event, another security guard asked the group to disperse, saying the group was holding an unauthorized meeting.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” said Hill, who feels it was the breast feeding, not the meeting, that prompted the security guard’s action. The group was clearly having a meeting before the breast feeding began but was not told to disperse, she said.
“The mall management has been really open about it,” Hill said. “They know it’s not right. It goes a long way.”
After the group posted to Facebook about the incident, mall marketing director Cindy Childs posted an apology on Saturday afternoon, followed by an Snyder’s Sunday apology.
“It’s just unfortunate, and we made a mistake,” said Childs, noting the mall has a long history of supporting nursing mothers and previous Big Latch On events.
As a courtesy, the mall management asks groups to let them know when they are gathering for events, Childs said. It isn’t required, but allows the mall to brief its staff and anticipate any needs. Only events and performances, such as those that need to use the mall stage or involve fundraising, are required to get advance permission.