‘It is the self-conceited individual who thinks people are cattle and run upon them tooting a horn. Make every machine stop and wait until the road is clear. Give precedent to people who are walking. The streets belong to the people and not to any one class. We have an equal right, in fact, more right than the automobile.’
The metamorphosis of city streets from places for gathering into high-speed automobile highways was not a natural process. This transformation was a bloody coup orchestrated by the affluent and powerful at the expense of the commons. It was not for accommodation of the masses, though it was deceptively marketed as such. This history of destruction, the dismantling of streets as public space, is perhaps the least known American injustice that’s provoked the greatest unseen harm to our lives.
On May Day 2013, I explained via megaphone this criminalization of walking to a crowd of about 60 protesters. I spoke about police departments the world over using these laws to suppress civil disobedience and social rebellion during the last century. After sharing this dismal account, the entire group participated in an ‘un-permitted march’ that drew the response of some 40 armed PPB officers, as well as several marked Homeland Security vehicles.
You’d have thought some serious criminal activity was about to go down. Considering human beings have enjoyed walking safely within the common space of the urban street for thousands of years, you gotta’ ask yourself: How in hell did we get here?