Ingenious Petition Now Circulating to Cover Public Square Jersey Barriers With Berlin-Wall-Style Graffiti


A petition appeared this morning on which invites Clevelanders to take a page out of West Berlin's playbook and cover the concrete jersey barriers on Public Square with graffiti.

"We're a city that prides itself on claiming it can solve every problem with a mural," the petition notes, "so why not this one?"

The petition, which Scene enthusiastically endorses, may seem like a joke. But it's also an indictment of the petty lethargy and vindictiveness of Mayor Frank Jackson, who installed the jersey barriers in March of last year when he relented to mounting activist pressure and the threat of a loan repayment by the Federal Transit Administration and opened the Square's strip of Superior Avenue to RTA buses, in accordance with a $50 million redesign.

"These do nothing," a transit activist told Scene at the time, when asked about the barriers. "They're there for the city to prove that they were right all along, and that any kind of solution to bring buses to the Square will be completely ugly. It's ugly by design, so that people will say let's go back to how it was."

There have been plans to remove the barriers, but it's unclear what progress has been made. The barriers stem from Jackson's stated fears about terrorism, but they totally defy his preference for a beautiful public space. The Q is supposed to be Cleveland's living room, remember, and Public Square is supposed to be our front lawn.

From the petition:

In August 2017, the Group Plan Commission, which oversees Public Square, and James Corner Field Operations, which designed it, pledged to develop a permanent plan to replace these unsightly, so-called safety features by the end of 2017. In June of this year (just 6 months past their deadline), the Group Plan Commission released a plan to remove the jersey barriers and install bollards at a cost of $2 million. Yet, 5 months after this plan was released and 20 months after the Square reopened to buses, the jersey barriers, planters, and makeshift ramps remain, with no end in sight.
As with the Berlin Wall itself, which separated East Berlin from West Berlin during the Cold War, the graffiti project would be an act of defiance and reclamation. It would both enliven what is now a grim and unsightly strip of Superior and it would also, no doubt, infuriate the administration. The outcomes, then, as predicted by the petition, seem more or less on target.

"Either the City gives in and removes them, unifying the space, or Public Square will further cement (pun intended) its status as a hub for free speech and artistic expression."

Let's do it.  

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