Stolen: One really giant T-shirt

Susan Elzey - Register & Bee Staff Writer - September 30, 2006

DANVILLE - Barry Koplen, vice president of Abe Koplen Clothing, chose his familiar world of clothing as a way to advertise a cause he strongly supports, but then someone else chose to steal his message.

Koplen has long been concerned about the complicated case of Jonathan Pollard, a former American naval intelligence analyst who has been imprisoned for 22 years for spying for Israel. Koplen agrees with thousands who believe that Pollard has been held far too long.

"He's a cause celebre in Israel," Koplen said.

After receiving no response from letters to congressmen and senators, Koplen decided in his own way to bring public attention to the matter of political prisoners being held unjustly in America.

"I went to a big and tall men's clothing show where I'm always looking for clothing that is hard to find, like pants size 76, and clothing I can display," Koplen said. "I saw a big T-shirt, so I decided I'd make the world's biggest Abe's T-shirt."

Lacking the space inside his store to hang the giant shirt, he decided to hang it on the outside of his store.

That's when Koplen got the idea to merge the giant T-shirt display with his feelings about Pollard, so he had a second giant T-shirt embroidered with "Free Jonathan Pollard."

"I wanted to do something to bring it to everyone's attention and get the representatives of this area to do something," Koplen said.

Mounting and displaying the shirt - about a size 200 - on his store proved to be more complicated and expensive than he expected. Then, about the same time, he noticed that candidates for the upcoming elections had displayed signs on property the store owns on Memorial Drive across from Robertson Bridge.

"I realized that people could put signs up without permission," he said, "and I realized if I displayed the shirt that people would know that this is something we are interested in."

So Koplen had his giant T-shirt mounted on the property's hill, which, he said, brought the cost of the project to more than $350.

It stayed there a week before Koplen noticed on Monday that it had been stolen. A police report was filed and Koplen said that his father, Abe Koplen, has plans to offer a reward for its return.

In the meantime, Barry Koplen said he feels good about his effort to make people aware of the injustice he feels Pollard has suffered.

"My feeling is that there are things we have strong feelings about and if we don't do anything, we are part of the problem," he said. "At least if nothing comes of it, I've tried.

"I'm involved because it's time to set the record straight that America ... is not living up to the standard they want the rest of the world to live by. We can be an example in setting Pollard free."

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