[Hpn] The Seattle Bench Project

Anitra Freeman anitra@speakeasy.org
Sat, 17 Jun 2000 23:11:00 -0700 (PDT)


Kudos to the Seattle Displacement Coalition, Seattle Food Not Bombs, the
Direct Action Network and others who have acted here in active protest
for true civility in our community. 

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Seattle Displacement Coalition <jvf4119@zipcon.net>
To: undisclosed-recipients:  ;
Subject: Times article today on our benches

Hi Benchers and Supporters of the Coalition,

There is a little article and photo about our benches in today's Times -
see Scene Section June 13th. It's a pretty good little article but I
want to make it clear that I, in no way, implied or inferred that the
homeless or anyone else were "undesireables".  I would never use such a
word - least of all for the homeless. We of course made them for
everyone, especially and including the homeless.  I told the reporter
that benches and other amenities bring people and life back to our
streets and that's the best way to drive out crime.  He must have
inferred that I meant the homeless too, which of course I did not.  I
should have been more careful and clear with my choice of words.

Note that it quotes the City's acting manager of street use, saying they
will not attempt to take the benches away ...so long as they don't block
walkways.  A bit of a victory here....I guess it means we (and others)
have a green light to build more, not that we needed their approval of
course....just that they may have a longer life on the streets than we
anticipated.

- JVFox

Rear-end game: How will benches sit with the official seat of power?
by Marc Ramirez
Seattle Times staff reporter

They appeared almost overnight, 16 of them, painted in red and green and 
blue. Scattered along Pike and Pine streets in Capitol Hill and on Second 
Avenue in Belltown.

They might look like mere benches to you, but to the Seattle Displacement 
Coalition, they're posterior protest.

Along with groups like Food Not Bombs and Direct Action Network, the 
coalition launched the Bench Project on May 20 in defiance of ordinances 
against sitting on city sidewalks: Those laws say having your rear abut a 
bench is OK, as long as there is a permit for the bench, and these 
subversive seats don't have one.

"Typically, we don't just allow benches randomly on the sidewalk," says Rich 
Burgunder, the city of Seattle's acting manager of street use. Will the 
benches be taken away? Not if they don't block walkways, the city says.

Bench Project activists spent six Saturdays crafting these reactionary rump 
rests, then looked for merchants willing to host them.

Capitol Hill coffeehouses like Aurifice and the Green Cat welcomed the 
benches; so did Belltown's Bethel Temple and Speakeasy Cafe.

Other places said no. "There is a fear that these will be a magnet for the 
homeless, for problems," says the coalition's John Fox. He says the opposite 
is true, that benches inspire community visibility and thus, less appeal for 
undesirables.

Do they work? Here's a benchmark: "It really has changed the atmosphere of 
our block for the better," says Victoria Gentry of Vain, a Belltown salon. 
"Radically."

The lowly bench. Who knew? Political symbol. Community asset. A place for 
your groove thang.

Ideas for us? E-mail: talktous@seattletimes.com. Fax: 206-464-2239. Mail: We 
Had to Know, Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.
________________________________________________________________________
[end forward]

As of June 17, the benches are still standing; people are still sitting.

Write On! / Anitra L. Freeman / http://www.speakeasy.org/~anitra/
"Never doubt that a small group of imperfect people can improve the
world--indeed they are the only ones who ever have." Not Margaret Mead