The Politics of Sitting In San Francisco
Activists place DIY benches throughout San Francisco to protest city's Sit-Lie ordinance.
Last November, San Francisco citizens voted in the the Sit-Lie ordinance that made it illegal to sit or lie in public spaces. Seeing that as a violation, an activist group has decided to protest this ordinance with guerilla-style bench installations, to which they also sent a letter to the San Francisco Bay Guardian explaining their position:
“These benches are more than places to sit,” the message reads. “They are a visible resistance to the privatization of public space.” It goes on to list a number of reasons behind the action, beginning with, “We believe that public space should be for everyone, and right now it is being taken away from those of us who need it most. Those of us whose presence in San Francisco has made our city the radical and creative haven it has been for decades. Those of us who have the least access to private spaces (which continue to get more and more unaffordable) and whose safety nets (like our shrinking public services) are being continuously destroyed.”
One of the protest benches
Their accusations bring up two key issues: the blurring of the private and public spaces as well as class issues. At present, cities like New York are looking to improve their citizen’s quality of living by opening up the city for greener places to congregate. So, placing stringent demands on its citizens’ ability to congregate might seem to cause more friction? Of course, this brings us back to the class issues, whereby high rents and high homeless populations may be an indication as to why the ordinance was voted in, but will it make the city a more pleasant experience?