Moving with Footloose Bruce is Carrboro, North Carolina's response to the public space issue on the Weaver Street/Carr Mill Mall lawn.

Original version is from the Walk-in Tributary Theatre (WITT) community meeting 8/26/06

Summary of events[edit | edit source]

  • An influential visitor (perhaps the Mall owner) reportedly visited the Mall, saw what he conceived to be disorder, which included Bruce dancing and told Milian (NR Milian & Associates) to 'deal with it'
  • Bruce was prohibited from dancing/performing by Carr Mill mall
  • Three week public waiting period to see if WSM (Weaver Street Market) and other parties can negotiate with Carr Mill, WSM is relatively silent.
  • Closed press conference 8/22/06 in which the new program 'live on the lawn' was cooperatively announced by the Mall and WSM. WSM will facilitate and staff 'live on the lawn'.
    • No mention made of WHY Bruce was banned.
    • 'Live on the Lawn' does not define what constitutes a 'performance'
    • Hula hoopers are allowed to continue performing without pre-approval by WSM/mall as long as they don’t sell the hoops
    • Decision did not seem to be made in any sort of democratic way, with any input from coop owners.
  • Community response, Dance-in 8/23—attended by over 150 folks who danced, drummed and spoke. Media coverage was positive. Bruce was present and spoke, though he didn’t dance. NO ONE WAS ASKED to LEAVE.
  • Hula Hoopers and others have continued to do what they always do and have not been asked to leave.
  • Response letter by WSM general Manager Ruffin Slater- sent Friday 8/26/02 to coop owners.
    • WSM is trying to negotiate with Mall
    • WSM sees 'live on the lawn' as an initial—but not final—attempt at compromise over use of the lawn, he urges the community to understand why WSM is taking a non-combative approach.
    • WSM does not agree with the specific ban on Bruce but is opting for a continued dialogue with the mall rather than fighting against them or criticizing them directly.
    • However Weaver St is concerned about increase in panhandling, drinking and drug use supposedly taking place on the property.
  • 8/29/06 Application for "Live on the Lawn" available
  • 8/30/06 "A Response to “Live on the Lawn” and Ruffin Slater’s Letter".

Issues[edit | edit source]

Racism[edit | edit source]

  • This is not the first time someone has been banned, CJ another African American was banned from the entire Carr Mill Mall a few weeks prior.
  • The Mall's decision to ban Bruce and others may/probably involves racial and socioeconomic motives, even if not consciously racist the fact that a tall black man was asked to leave, is probably based on internalized racism.

Community Space[edit | edit source]

  • This issue goes beyond Bruce and racism. Community Space, where it comes natural for the community to congregate and express themselves, is essential to democracy.
  • Other activities including flyering, voter registration and public events-–even political ones-—have been banned in recent years.

Customer Safety[edit | edit source]

  • There are laws against public drunkenness and drug use, so Carr Mill and Weaver St. need not resort to such banning in order to ensure safety of customers.

WSM Strategy[edit | edit source]

  • WSM may be taking the negotiation route to preserve a good relationship in order to expand WSM's kitchen and dining area

Action[edit | edit source]

Goals and Objectives[edit | edit source]

Short Term[edit | edit source]

  • Cultivate media support- be loud and visible enough to make this a viable story
  • Community response to Ruffin's letter hopefully to release on Tuesday night as part of the press release for the Wednesday night dance-in. Here is a copy of the letter. "A Response to “Live on the Lawn” and Ruffin Slater’s Letter"
  • Take on the lack of transparency and democracy in WSM structure. Is it really a coop and how is it accountable to its owners?

Medium Term[edit | edit source]

  • Making community/public space a community issue

Long Term[edit | edit source]

  • Obtain WSM lawn and/or East Weaver Street as a community/public space by the town of Carrboro or other democratically controlled entity.
  • Create another community/public space in Carrboro- The Greenspace

Stategies[edit | edit source]

It is encouraged that everyone critically think about these strategies but also recognize that different members of our community feel comfortable speaking out in different ways. How can we as a community be supportive of one another's methods/means of seeking justice? Can we make the diversity of tactics a strength?

  • Addressing the racial discrimination issue:
    • Contact the ACLU and others like the NAACP about
      • perceived racist bans on Bruce and CJ while exempting white performers
      • about community squatter's rights.
  • Carr Mill Tenant Survey- do the other tenants really find the high traffic of WSM disruptive for business?
  • Documenting Dancing and other “banned” activities that are allowed- come up with a form or space on the web or on paper to document unapproved performances which are not inhibited by Mall security. Ask observer's to 'witness' your performance, or witness others performances. Keep a growing file of witnessed performances at the Greenspace. This will build a paper trail in support of Mall profiling/discrimination. Also talk of establishing an online photo-based documentation protocol using the Flicker tag- WSM, Bruce and dancing.
  • Continuity in visible public protest- have something happen every Wednesday night. This Wednesday- Dance-in. Try to include alternate forms of expression (guerilla theater) and music in future dance-ins to increase inclusiveness as well as to have an element of surprise.
  • September 2nd Paperhand Puppet convergence at the Carrboro town commons.
    • Puppeteers, Free market, Cakalak Thunder and Durham Drum Corp, Radical Cheerleading. Following convergence, march to WSM and get down.
    • ISSUES- need a permit for marching on the street
  • “Spontaneous” actions- mob texting for quick, unpredictable actions.
  • Less visible/loud actions: have a performer every hour to keep issue present and document all instances of uninterrupted performances.
  • Take an active role in upcoming WSM board elections, try to get a non-Ruffin approved community member on the board
  • Have mass attendance at upcoming WSM board meetings perhaps wearing “Footloose Bruce” shirts (Ruby will report back with the date of the next scheduled meeting).

Concerns[edit | edit source]

  • 'Too fast too soon'
    • save loud, visible protests for when needed. The worry is that public support may lessen if too disruptive.
    • 'too fast too soon' keeps the issue present, the media engaged and makes WSM/Mall more likely to recapitulate rules surrounding lawn use to end the PR nightmare.
  • A variety of tactics allows lots of folks to be involved in ways which feel safe & comfortable to them.
  • Smaller, less visible actions will not be noticed.
  • What are the real goals of these actions? There is a need to clearly establish what is being sought in order to be effective.
  • Consumer/Stakeholder advocacy vs more anti-capitalist perspectives. There was a discussion about whether or not we needed to come to a consensus about the perspective. At this point we are agreeing that there can be differences in opinion.
  • Something that has not been talked about very much are the difficulties or problems we might face if the lawn or street in front of WSM was a public space, where public is defined by it being owned and managed by the town– like the Town Commons or a Park. We shouldn’t forget that there are a lot of rules and prohibitions that accompany such a space. I am not suggesting that therefore the only alternative is to cede to the alternative of private property to be owned by some entity like Carr Mill or other malls , but rather to suggest that we need to be creative as we figure out what we want — we need to find ways to pursue a model of the Commons that is non-bureacratic, accomodating to all sorts of people, safe, fun, and a place where people can learn, communicate, and discuss pressing issues– I personally think this is one of the most important challenges we must face today ….

Resources[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

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