Sunday, June 3, 2012

no loitering

I recently spent almost a week in the greater Boston area at the StartingBloc Institute for Social Innovation with an amazing group of people. After it ended, I stayed at a high school friends and spent the afternoon wander her neighborhood of Davis Square before my evening flight. I wrote this post on a small yellow legal pad and have tried to transcribe it, accurately capturing my feelings and reflections. 

Wandering Davis Square I was impressed by the blended neighborhood of small mom and pop shops, a Post Office, copious restaurants of different cuisines and price points, and even a Planned Parenthood "Express Center." I could have gotten my shoes repaired, a tattoo or a passport photo taken, all on the same block. It was an instantly comfortable neighborhood, clearly in a city but with open courtyards and parks that kept the cityscape from feeling rushed and impersonal.

Then I noticed this sign. In a plaza with outside seating plus  open benches under trees for seating. I wondered how long it was there, what caused the owners of the building to put it up*. The Urban Equity Development Center pulling a move directly from the Arsenal of Exclusion playbook.

[Instgram-ed for effect]

Of course, like most signs, it was ignored. As I ate my lunch, I watched waiters on break having smokes at the back of the plaza, folks cutting through the plaza from one street to the next. To me, it didn't disrupt what I had already observed. But I had paid to sit in the plaza for lunch, so I can't speak to what one of those cutting through the plaza would have felt if he had a decided to make a phone call, sat down on a bench, and mid-call had noticed that sign.

*I will note, due to the proximity of the PP clinic, the sign could actually be a preemptive step to allow the owners to actually make a distinct population safer by shutting protesters out. This particular sign may have good intentions, but the reflections remain true of "No Loitering" signs in semi-public spaces throughout cities. 

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