Dan Aymar-Blair

The New Harvey Milk Plaza: Designing Public Spaces for Civic Participation

San Francisco’s Castro district has been a gathering place for activists of every stripe for decades. And the corner of Castro and Market Streets is the crossroads of this historic neighborhood. So in November 2016, the Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza launched a design competition to commemorate Harvey Milk here, just a few blocks from the iconic figure’s former camera store and apartment.

After a year of vigorous debate over 33 entries, a winner was chosen: Perkins Eastman whose design imagined “a vibrant, active, living place that more fittingly honors Harvey Milk’s charismatic spirit and legacy as a community energizer and a vocal activist.”

Designers McCall Wood and Justin Skoda called their rising, tiered amphitheater a “human-activated place” because, beyond meeting the basic criteria of the competition, it serves the needs of rallies, public assemblies, and soap-boxers. I had the honor of interviewing Wood and Skoda about their design, the legacy of Harvey Milk, and what makes a public space conducive to holding public assembly.

University of Wisconsin Regents Walked Away From the Challenge of Democracy

On October 6th, the University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents, mostly appointees of Governor Scott Walker, approved the ‘Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression’ policy. If a student is charged with “disorderly conduct” or “disruption of freedom of expression” two times, they will be suspended. Three times and they’ll be expelled.

Wisconsin campuses do not have a big enough problem - presumably protests drowning out other protests or speakers – to warrant this measure. The Regents, stewards of 26 institutions of higher education, are buying into a conservative fad and pandering to Governor Scott who can’t muster the energy to pass similar limitations in Madison.

Dan Aymar-Blair: Standing Rock Is a Model of the Right of Peaceful Assembly

The Article 20 Network's executive director writes in Truth Dig about what Standing Rock teaches us about the contemporary state of the freedom of peaceful assembly. 

The rerouting of the Dakota Access pipeline was a much-needed victory for the rights of indigenous peoples and the sanctity of the environment. The stand at Standing Rock also proved to be a victory for a human right we don’t hear much about: the freedom of peaceful assembly.

Peaceful assembly is the presence of individuals in a public forum as an expression of opinion. Often confused with free speech or other expressive human rights, assembly is expressed through presence, what I call the “body as voice.” Thus, when, where and how we make our presence known to others is fundamental to the expression of assembly.