Photo by Matias Garabedian licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Urban planners and all professionals responsible for planning and designing public spaces must pay greater attention to the many ways that streets, plazas, parks and public facilities in cities around the world are the main sites for exercising free speech and protest as part of the global movements for Black Lives, Indigenous Lives, Climate Justice, labor, equal rights for women, LGBTQ2S+ people and persons with disability, and our democratic rights.
Too often planners and architects have designed public spaces to limit and control the exercise of free speech rather than facilitate it. Too often these spaces enable aggressive policing, especially in communities where the majority of residents are people of color, immigrants, the unhoused and others subject to systemic racism and discrimination. Planners Network has consistently offered transformative alternatives that contest the inequalities and dehumanization of status quo planning and development.
We call on all planning and design professionals to raise their voices against the arrest and criminalization of protestors who peacefully exercise their free speech rights. We categorically reject calls for a return to the catastrophic “war against crime” that turned out to be a war against Black people. We must proactively advance ways to eliminate draconian rules for regulating public spaces and propose new methods for safeguarding and expanding spaces for the exercise of democratic discussion, debate and healing.