|"rid the city of the hobo element"|
September 15th, 1903
In the piece the phrase, "hotel de Minto," seemed to be an ironic, but not hostile or mean, way of referring to a basement and its very basic level of accommodation. It was a joke for desperate times, black humor perhaps, but still a bantering joke.
In a previous generation, however, with a different Chief of Police, the locution seems rather more pointed, a mean dig at those unfortunate enough to experience the "hotel," and also having a different referent, the jail rather than basement.
Ten names appeared upon the registration at Hotel de Gibson yesterday morning...Chief of Police Gibson is determined to rid the city of the hobo element...and all loafers will be promptly arrested and placed behind bars.So I wonder if the later, Depression-era meaning of "hotel de Minto" is actually a little less generous.
The language we use today is often not very generous in clear ways.
In several front-page pieces involving bridges over the last couple of years, it's always about dirt and disorder, about cleaning and clearing. Even if there is what reasonable people consider an inordinate amount of real trash, some of the things as personal belongings are not actually trash, and the attributes of trash also get transferred to the people, as if they were trash themselves. The people, then, are dirt that need to be cleaned up.
On the ramp and path system under the Center Street Bridge, the people complaining rarely seemed to be people who might wish to walk and bike and use the path and ramp system. The complaints and the rhetoric had everything to do with a different class of people, people who were improperly occupying and managing a place, people who needed to be removed, and people who represented, or created, dirt and disorder.
|Another approach to nuisance,|
Jan 21st, 1903
And when the path system was "cleaned," the gesture also took place on a stage for a civic drama of cleansing and the restoration of order. It seemed more than a little like a ritual, in fact. It is possible to read a kind of scapegoating, even. (You might also remember video series posted to social media documenting a DIY clean-up patrol. There was a kind of vigilantism in it.)
The path system should feel safe. It did not and there was a real public interest in addressing that. But in the "cleaning" there was quite an element of moral censure and disgust, a neo-temperance urge we might say, above and beyond the minimum necessary to meet the actual public need and make the path usable and safe.
So all that is a long wind-up to tonight's Council formal Work Session on a vagrancy law.
Over at CANDO they have much more trenchant things to say. Just this month see:
- A post looking at the evidence for the vagrancy law
- A post on mixed messaging by the City
- Considerations of the recent options and revisions from staff on the proposed vagrancy law
- And the latest yesterday on "the recent influx of campers to the neighborhood following police 'sweeps' of camps around Wallace Marine Park."