Sit-In and Smoke-In Planned for Rittenhouse Square
The news yesterday that sitting on the Rittenhouse Square wall has been banned came as a surprise. And rightly so: People have been sitting on the wall — or, more properly, the balustrade, as the Friends of Rittenhouse Square’s Jackie Whyte called it — for generations. To abruptly attempt to change the culture of the park without warning is incredibly silly.
Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation department says it had the best interests of the park in mind when it made the changes. “The move was in response to a recent uptick in vandalism on the historic balustrades, which received nearly $1 million in restoration work just a few years ago,” Parks and Rec said in a statement. “Furthermore, the walls were not originally designed to be used for seating, so this measure will further protect the structural integrity of these iconic park features.”
That the walls were not originally designed for seating is irrelevant. The citizens of Philadelphia decide how parks should be used, and we have decided the balustrades in Rittenhouse are to be used for seating. Why would they be restored without keeping in mind that they’ve been used as seating for decades?
In protest, there is a “Sittenhouse” sit-in planned for noon on Tuesday, January 17th, to protest the new rules. Rain is forecast, but more than 180 people have already RSVPed on Facebook.
And that’s not the only protest planned. The Friends of Rittenhouse Square say the new rule, which it supported, is meant to discourage marijuana use in the park. People do smoke weed in the park, and it can be annoying for people visiting the park. OK, fine. A wall-sit ban is overkill.
Naturally, the people who have smoked weed in Rittenhouse for years are upset about the new wall-sitting ban. As such, there is a “toke-in” protest planned for Friday, January 20th, at 4 p.m. in Rittenhouse.
“Smoking weed on that wall in Rittenhouse Square is a time-honored tradition for Philadelphians,” organizer and cannabis activist N.A. Poe tells Philadelphia magazine. “Anyone that wants to curtail smoking a bone in that park is no ‘friend of Rittenhouse Square.’”
Protest co-organizer Chris Goldstein, the marijuana expert who is holding a Marijuana 101 class at Temple this year, says the tradition of lighting up in Rittenhouse is so strong the city should set aside a portion of the park for pot smoking. “Millions of joints have been smoked on those walls in an area long considered a sanctuary for cannabis consumers and medical-marijuana patients,” he says. “I hope the Friends of Rittenhouse Square can recognize this special affection our community has for the space.”
The Friends of Rittenhouse Square did not immediately return a request for comment about the protests.
“Don’t sit the on wall, don’t skateboard here,” Poe says. “We’re taking away the chessboards in the park. … It’s a public space, not a thoroughfare for au pairs and people that want to eat $25 burgers at Rogue. When did Philly turn into Manhattan?”