While topically, this article from December about the Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis is obviously dated, it indirectly raises an important point about public commons (boldface mine):
Judge Karen Janisch granted the order as it pertained to three named leaders of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, but stopped short of issuing an order against Black Lives Matter protesters at large. The order upheld that the mall is private property, and the current state of the law allows Mall of America to prohibit public demonstration.
But just because the judge says Mall of America can expel protesters from “private property” doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. The mall has become the current day replacement for the town square of days gone by. The rights of such quasi-public places must be balanced with the necessary conversations that we can no longer ignore regarding disparities in the criminal justice system.
When one thinks about it, there are very few places in most suburbs that qualify as public spaces. In some very old towns, there might be a small common or green, kept largely as a scenic attraction. Others have some parks, which are usually ballparks, playgrounds, or nature trails. For meetings, I suppose one could use the library or a public school.
But there is no publicly-owned commons where people can spontaneously meet without requiring permission from government. Leaving aside the symbolism, a free citizenry needs such places, but we have consciously made decision after decision to build communities without them.
And then we wonder why we are so isolated and split from each other.