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Barclays Center, "an epicenter" of action, "was totally appropriated for the protests"

There's a long and interesting essay-plus-photos in the 9/10/20 Urban Omnibus, You’re Not Going to Tell Me When to Go Home, with an interview by urban designer Oscar Oliver-Didier. The summary:
What happened on the ground during the June 2020 protests in New York City? Below, John Xavier Acosta [JXA], an anti-racist movement and protest leader, and architect and protest photographer Gabriel Hernández Solano [GHS] document the month’s events verbally and visually. Gabriel created diagrams that not only help explain how these protests and occupations unfolded in place, but also serve as a visual record of police brutality, and as a catalogue of the diverse and evolving roles of protesters to claim public space. We have also included some of the photographs taken at the events he attended.
GHS observed that "During the first week, the protests were fueled purely by emotion. Everything was running organically on this rage." and that "The knee on George Floyd’s neck was the straw that broke the camel’s back," given the privation and insecurity.

JXA said "The thing that surprises me is just how brave my brothers and sisters have been during this whole protest. There’s been racism, and there’s been brutality, to the max. We’re not here to start any sort of violence, we’re being peaceful."

(That wasn't universal, I'd say, given vandalism and looting in certain areas, not necessarily by protestors but by some taking advantage of protests, plus counter-violence.)

Taking over infrastructure and "appropriating" Barclays

The interviewees were asked how "the city’s infrastructure — its bridges, its different urban elements — been used and taken advantage of as a backdrop for the protests and the Black Lives movement?"

"It’s been interesting to see the places that have been chosen, and how all the tools of capitalism, like the Citi bikes and Revel scooters, have been appropriated by the protestors to meet our ends," said GHS. "The bridges have a certain purpose: for people to cross over from one part of the city to another. Barclays Center was an epicenter of action at the beginning; it was totally appropriated for the protests."

I think he's right, and that conforms with my observation that the operators of the Barclays Center, who belatedly claimed to welcome peaceful protests, were acceding to reality, swapping ads for a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, "The time is always right to do what is right,"

See photo from an early protest of a fire, graffiti, and a dislodged wayfinding sign in the Daily News' own coverage, screenshot at right.

The quote from Joe Tsai owner of the Brooklyn Nets and arena operating company: "If it continues to serve as a place where everyone from our community – from residents to businesses to police alike – gather peacefully to listen to each other and find common ground, then it’s good with me.”

As Jake Offenhartz wrote for Gothamist about the protests in general, "In both the level of rage from demonstrators and total lack of restraint from NYPD, last night’s protest was unlike anything I’ve seen in NYC."

I more recently wrote about Tsai's social justice commitment, including a $50 million fund over ten years.

“We aspire to leverage the unique space of Barclays Center and the Nets and Liberty to support the Brooklyn community’s shared desire for justice,” the BSE Global statement said, pledging efforts to “create ongoing and consistent community dialogue.”

“In partnership with law enforcement, we will encourage the Plaza at Barclays Center (corner of Flatbush and Atlantic) to continue to serve as a place for peaceful gatherings and for all constituents to listen to each other,” they added.

As I wrote, that not only skates over the occasional vandalism and tense stand-offs as protests began in late May, but also the seeming generosity ignores how arena operators were essentially forced into compliance by circumstance, creating an accidental new town square.

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