Crowds gathering to play Pokemon Go in Winona's Veterans Memorial Park are prompting the City Council to consider broad restrictions for the use of the park by the public, Winona Daily News staffer Glen Olson reported Friday in Catch 'em all — just not at Winona's Veterans Memorial Park; city proposal would limit Pokémon Go, other activity.
Should the proposed ordinance pass on Monday, impromptu demonstrations like the July 14, 2016 March for Hugs, will be a thing of the past in the park, which was built with private funds and dedicated in 2009.
A confrontation in the park between Pokemon Go players and angry veterans was posted on Reddit on July 29 has gained widespread attention, from Forbes Tech's Pokemon GO Spawns A Real Life Battle In A Veterans Memorial Park to the UK's Telegraph post, Pokemon Go hotspot in veterans memorial park sparks confrontation to Mic.com's Ridiculous Video Captures Man Flipping Out Over Pokémon Go Players in Veterans' Park.
Here's the viral video [warning: foul language]:
Point of fact: the park isn't a cemetery, but does include memorial paving stones with the names of area veterans on them. The Winona city police officers are to be complimented on their professionalism (maybe it was the hug one received from marchers earlier in the month).
Lost in the focus on the video and Pokeman Go players? The rest of the ordinance. Olson reports in the Daily News that a range of free speech and assembly activities would be restricted:
The ordinance would cover a wide array of activities, not all related to increased traffic from Pokémon players, and some which is already prohibited.
Obvious restrictions would include littering, disorderly conduct or driving through the park off of designated roads.
More closely related to concerns over the recent crowds that suddenly began gathering at all hours earlier this month when the game was released include prohibitions on hammocks and tents, sleeping and sunbathing, recreational activities and games (electronic or not), having pets in the area and playing music.
Some of the broader restrictions would include picketing and demonstrating, speeches or oration to assemblies, and displaying flags or placards.
The exception to many of these rules would be if they were part of a designated military memorial ceremony, or expressly authorized by the city.
The broad restrictions against free speech and assembly without prior permission by the city would likely have dampened the March For Hugs, one of the few non-veterans-related demonstrations of any kind at the park that a superficial online search revealed (rallies and protests in Winona seem to happen mostly in Windom Park or at public buildings like City Hall and the county courthouse).
A March for Hugs
In the Winona Daily News, Samantha Setzer reported in Embracing peace: Residents march with singular purpose—hugs—Thursday in Winona:
Eleven-year-old Ezra Frame rode his scooter through Lake Park and down Huff Street Thursday evening with a sign that read “Less Killing More Love.”
“This has to stop,” Frame said.
He and his mom, Amy Ross, were part of a somewhat impromptu six-person Free Hug Peace March Thursday evening down Huff Street — which Frame affectionately named “Hug Street.”
The march was organized by Ross and her friend, Tesla Mitchell, in response to recent violence in the U.S. It’s the type of response, Ross said she believes the world needs.
“We’re sick of seeing all the killings and want to be more positive,” Ross said.
Mitchell admitted she had wanted to organize a peace march for some time, but when Ross approached her about one, she said she felt confident enough in promoting peace, that she believes the U.S. needs to achieve.
“If we can succeed, then the rest of the world can succeed in peace,” Mitchell said.
Though the march was small in numbers, every passerby left with a smile. And the march picked up at the end, concluding with a Winona police officer stopping for a hug — and the group crashing, with hugs, a crowd of people outside playing Pokemon Go. . . .
Hugging police officers without permission from the city council? That should send the country racing toward hell in a flaming handbasket.
KTTC-TV had more in Winona group raises people's spirits with hugs:
Mass shootings. Protests. We've been going through a lot as a nation lately, so in response to all the violence and heartbreak a group of people put on a peaceful march in Winona, a march of hugs. These folks had one mission in mind - to brighten people's days.
This small group, not affiliated with any movement, got together Thursday and decided to try and bring change their way. They say they are tired of all the violence going around and they think that something as simple as a hug can make a world of difference to people.
Plenty of folks were excited to see them and see that there's still some good in the world and that's exactly what the huggers had in mind.
"We all want to feel love, we all want to feel acceptance and that's why our country is where it's at right now is because there isn't that love and acceptance and equality," Tesla Mitchell, one of the huggers, said. "We need to be putting that back into the world and so we have to do that, personally we have to do that, we have to be the change that we want to see."
They walked around the Veterans Memorial Park and down to a nearby Kwik Trip to see people. They even ran into a local law enforcement member who was more than happy to stop by and give them hugs.
That sweetness and cop-hugging might have to stop. However, the comments on Winona Daily News article about the proposal are for now running against the ordinance.
With their permission, hug your favorite veteran and each other, gentle readers, in Winona and wherever you may be.
Photo: Screenshot from KTTC's coverage of the March for Hugs (above); Winona Daily News' hug photograph.
Hat tip: Johanna Rupprecht on Facebook.
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