When Poetry Hurts

The Loring labor fight takes an obscene turn

"Those tables are technically on public property," confirms City Council member Lisa Goodman, whose 7th Ward includes the Loring. "It's a great restaurant, but they don't have the right to stifle public protest. We're not going to take sides in this dispute, but we're going to protect the rights of the diners and we're going to protect the rights of the protesters."

What exactly that means could take some legal maneuvering to define. Harwell's trespass warning, for one thing, is a tool usually applied by police to chase unwanted visitors--prostitutes and drug dealers, for example--off landlords' properties. At the Loring, officers from the city's Community Crime Prevention/SAFE program last week told picketers that they could protest on the sidewalk, but not on a disputed triangle of land where some of the restaurant's outdoor tables are. "The bottom line is that the sidewalk is public," says Luther Krueger, a CCP/SAFE crime prevention specialist. "So long as they keep moving and are not blocking pedestrians, they can protest anywhere they want on the sidewalk"--even among the outdoor tables on the public walkway. No court date has been set for Harwell's citations.

Nygaard, for his part, has signed a statement avowing his authorship of "Elevator." "I don't feel bad about saying what I did," he says. "Excuse me, but I was standing on the sidewalk reading poetry. I didn't even think anyone was listening."

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