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Charlottesville and the 'War Against Public Space'

A think-piece published by CityLab argues that public space, and the ideals it embodies, are under threat from the racist groups that gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
August 15, 2017, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Charlottesville Downtown mall
The Charlottesville Downtown Mall in peaceful times.

Kriston Capps penned a think-piece on the "Unite the Right" protests in Charlottesville over the weekend—arguing that the protests represent an attack on the role of public space in a democratic society.

Capps expands the consequences of the vehicular attack on a group of counter protestors on Saturday:

The attack also threatens public space, an amenity that is both scarce and necessary for democracy. The idea of the public square is under attack. And the extremist alt-right is waging a campaign to shut down the public square, using both violence and intimidation, especially under open-carry laws.

Capps details the history of public space as a legal concept, especially one central to the idea of democracy. Charlottesville's Downtown Mall, as designed by Lawrence Halprin, is excellent example of the public square, and it's has "been the site of regular protests since last year, when the city declared its intent to remove a Confederate statue celebrating Robert E. Lee," according to Capps.

Capps argues that the alt-right attack on public space has another weapon to "chill free speech": open carry. "A public square is not possible in states with open-carry laws," argues Capps, noting that Virginia is one example of states that have "ceded law enforcement authority to racist provocateurs."

Full Story:
Published on Sunday, August 13, 2017 in CityLab
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