We meet on the skywalk because it is too cold to meet outside. Bring a chair if you need one, because the skywalk has no seating. Please note that the skywalk was built with public tax money and belongs to the citizens of Duluth, just as the public sidewalks do. This and a very few other spaces in the city are the only remaining vestige of the ancient idea of the commons, which still remains the physical basis of all our public liberties. We have a constitutional right to assemble there, and we do so to discuss and debate current issues of vital concern to us all.
Meeting on the skywalk has all sorts of interesting by-play. We have been asked to leave and informed by security guards, maintenance personel, low level managers, and the guy who sweeps the floors that we are tresspassing on private property. Even members of the public have frowned at us, informing us with the false information that no loitering is permitted in the skywalk. This opinion has no basis in law and the Duluth Police Department has refused requests to remove us. Still, the idea that citizens engaged in legal business cannot use public spaces is unfortunately common.
Even worse, the same guards, employees, and passers-by who have told us to leave are also certain that they have the right and responsibility to deny access to other minority citizens, especially poor people, and most especially, poor people of color. Many poor people have been intimidated and threatened with police action, to the extent that they no longer feel they have a right to use the public facilities. This denial of human and civil rights is a crime, illegal under federal, state, and local laws.
As the city attorney suggested in court last week, just imagine the headlines if the city allowed the disabled and the poor to use public spaces as freely as real citizens. Yeah, just imagine. So now our city attorney is letting imagined newspaper headlines dictate to the law? And people who are supposed to be protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act are thrown out into the street? We all know that the weather in Duluth is often uncomfortable and can be lethal. Imagine the headlines if one cold winter morning a disabled homeless person, denied access to common warmth, is discovered frozen to death on the locked doors of the skywalk in front of Wells Fargo.
We are nearly all one paycheck from life on the street. That frozen corpse could be your own.