Su Casa es Mi Casa

The latest in a series of urban adventures from the guy and gal at newmindspace will commence tonight at 2100hrs in the Financial Disrict.  Tonight’s agenda: a big game of capture-the-flag throughout the downtown core.  In the abstract it’s a neat idea, but one of the organisers seems to be kinda fuzzy on the issue of property rights:

“We’re taking back the space that’s ours,” the game’s organizer, Kevin Bracken, says. The 18-year-old political science student at the University of Toronto is a Long Island, NY native who brought the game to Toronto after hosting two Capture the Flag matches in New York this summer.

— Karon Liu, “Capture the flag“, The Eyeopener Online.

Er… on what grounds is that space yours, in particular, as opposed to the fine folks at the various property management companies like Cadillac Fairview.  Whose security staff, by the way, had no idea that this was coming.  Once you become a property owner yourself (or hell, even a property renter), the idea that a few hundred other folks — whose names do not appear on the deed or lease — can lay claim to your turf becomes laughable.  I’m pretty sure the organisers wouldn’t want someone to invite a few hundred folks to their places of residence, for instance.  Not even in pursuit of such a lofty goal as “taking back the space that was theirs”.

Regular readers of this space will know that, in general, I am supportive of after-hours use of privately-owned public spaces.  Like say skateboarders who want to use the flat granite plinths of Commerce Court or TD Centre to hone their craft.  I am a little skeptical of this capture the flag thing, though, since it’s going to involve being out in traffic in larger numbers and there is a real possibility of somebody getting hurt.  And that means legal liability.  Which is why there are all sorts of regulations governing what you can and can’t do in a space, and what sort of insurance and safety measures are required.  Want to use private spaces in large numbers?  Great.  How about asking the building owners next time.  If you’re responsible enough to pay for insurance, police and EMS during the proceedings, they might even say yes.

UPDATE180107Z NOV 2006: The quoted man himself, Mr. Kevin Bracken of newmindspace, responds via e-mail:

I wish I had seen your blog when comments were open because I have a few words regarding Capture the Flag. Firstly, I do not remember where that quote came from because I am 20 now. However, even two years later I still assert our right to assembly on sidewalks, streets and what is called “privately-owned public space”. These spaces exist because, in order to secure the privilege of erecting taller structures, builders agree to create some kind of public amenity like a plaza or a square as a trade. This signals that corporations owe the public something, at least.

This is not a legal argument but a livability one: the difference between the plaza at TD Centre (where we have gathered for Capture the Flag) and an individual’s lawn is quite obvious.

And yes, we have asked TD Centre (and Scotia Plaza + Commerce Court) if we could have (other) events in their squares, and the answer, inevitably, has been that consent equals liability, while blissful ignorance frees them from potential lawsuits. They, like we, prefer that no permission is ever sought.

I hope this clears up your doubts and I am willing to answer any questions you may have about how we operate, which is without permission, always.

Interestingly enough, I am sympathetic to his interpretation in the first paragraph — although where this leaves the property owner, I’m not quite sure.  Thanks for your side of the story, Kevin!

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