By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Hundreds of people gathered in the Quincy Mall Saturday afternoon in support of Larry Toolate, who is known simply as "The Dancing Man."
Toolate was recently told by mall staff that he could not dance on its property, but he said he was not given a reason. However, he is taking the request in stride.
"I didn't have any problem with that, because I have the rest of Quincy to dance in," he said. "I'm going to do what they request. If it's their wish that I discontinue it, fine. It won't keep me from dancing from everywhere else."
Toolate said if he bumped into anyone while he was dancing at the mall, he made sure to apologize.
The protest was organized by a Facebook page dedicated to "The Dancing Man," which has more than 7,000 fans. He has become sort of a Quincy icon who can regularly be seen dancing along Broadway with his Walkman.
According to the protest's event page, the group was originally going to dance from one end of the mall to other to the sound of Men Without Hats' "The Safety Dance."
Wearing a leather jacket, Toolate instead led the crowd on a walk through the length of the mall before congregating in front of Bergner's. Toolate and a few supporters briefly danced in front of the department store as the crowd chanted "Let him dance."
"I couldn't be happier," Toolate said as he looked at the people who showed up to support him.
Toolate said while he can't dance in the mall, he will still visit it.
Hannibal, Mo., resident Allysha Leonard said she attended to support "The Dancing Man," who she has seen occasionally while visiting Quincy.
"I think other things could happen in this mall besides someone dancing," she said. "If he wants to dance, let him dance."
The mall manager was unavailable for comment Saturday, but on Thursday the mall posted a statement on its Facebook page saying it could not respond to every message regarding Toolate.
"All patrons are asked to follow the rules of the mall, which is private property," the mall said in the statement. "In no way was Larry â€˜banned' from the mall. He was politely asked to refrain from dancing throughout the common area of the mall and we would like to thank him for complying with our request. Our ultimate concern is for the safety of our tenants and guests."
Most businesses remained open in the mall during the protest, but Fred Meyer Jewelers, which is next to Bergner's, closed briefly. An employee in the store said it was a corporate policy to close during protests, and the jeweler reopened once the crowd dispersed.
The Quincy Police Department had two officers stationed at the mall during the protest, but no arrests or incidents were reported.