Cooler heads defuse Pokemon showdown in Winona

Following up on Monday’s post: Pokemon has survived an assault in Winona, Minn.

The City Council last night voted not to ban the game-playing in city parks, specifically around the veteran’s memorial next to a playground and band shell in the city.

“I understand that Pokémon Go is a very compelling game,” Council Member Al Thurley said, according to the Winona Daily News. “What we’re trying to do here is craft a code of conduct which is in ordinance form … that most people will be agreeable to.”

That’s a more tactful approach than a couple of veterans used last Thursday in a confrontation with the players, who had put up a portable sun shelter to their consternation (video).

An original ordinance proposal would have banned playing electronic games in the park; it was modeled after those in effect at Arlington National Cemetery.

But the city attorney said it would be too difficult to enforce and many of its provisions — against littering, damaging monuments etc. — were already prohibited in Winona.

The new ordinance redefines the site as a memorial rather than a park and limits the area governed by the ordinance to the area immediately adjacent to the monuments and central gazebo, excluding the parking lot and band shell area. The site would be referred to as Veterans Memorial, redefining it in the city code.

The ordinance bars certain recreational activities “including sports, athletics, grilling or cooking, putting up hammocks or tents, and bicycles or rollerblades in the designated memorial. Notably missing from the ordinance was references to Pokémon Go, or electronic games, which began the conversation.

The ordinance will have to return to the City Council for final reading and approval.

The original ordinance also included bans on sleeping and sunbathing, the Rochester Post Bulletin reported.

“It’s not enforceable,” said Council Member Michelle Alexander. “If I’m sitting on a bench in a tank top, is that sunbathing? If I fall asleep there for five minutes on my lunch, is that sleeping? Some of these are setting people up to be confrontational.”

“Police have enough to worry about,” City Councilman Gerry Krage said. “We don’t need to put that on their plate. Enforcing football or Frisbee with a dog, that’s simple. Enforcing an electronic game, not so much.”

City officials say they’re asking the Pokemon Go players to police themselves and be respectful around the memorial.

If this works, it could usher a new era of simply talking to people to calmly resolve differences.

  • Congrats, Winona – good call.

  • Mike

    The Winona city council showed admirable restraint. I wish we had a Congress like them.

    • KenB

      Congress has shown too much restraint. They should do something useful once in a while.

  • Dan

    Sensible. If you look at that park, people would not ordinarily pick the monument area for their games/activities. Unfortunately the Pokemons were telling them where to go rather than common sense. I didn’t exactly see anyone (vets nor Pokemon players) acting respectfully in that video.

  • Gary F

    This would be a great news story to come back to in 20 years or so and we would all chuckle.

  • Jay T. Berken

    With all due respect to the Vets and memorials, when are these kind of people going to stop being vigilantes and putting the law in their own hands? Call the Peace Officers and step aside. You are not the law, and it is not your job unless there is physical/verbal harm being done to another being.

    Secondly, when are some people in the older generations ever going to give some respect to the younger generation? You may not like what the younger generation is doing, but at least try to understand instead of judge. They are/will be paying your pensions…

    • In many cases around the state I’m aware of, the cops have been pretty sympathetic to gathered Pokemon players (in one case in a St. Paul park, the cop WAS a Pokemon player).

      As the councillor says, the cops have plenty to do. There are so many issues in this particular story besides a veterans memorial.

      • Jay T. Berken

        I really hear what you are saying (especially that the cops have a lot on their plates), but these men put the law (and interpreted it wrongfully) into their hands and escalated the situation to a point which it should have never gotten to. That is nice that city council is trying to alleviate this situation with the ordinance they past, but no one is saying that I can see that the Pokemon players were in the right.

  • Winonan

    All good ,but let’s make sure we don’t confuse the angry veteran’s actions with the city council and their concerns. True, council member Gerry Krage originally wanted to ban electronic gaming from the memorial area. But we need to remember that Krage’s concerns really have nothing to do with the angry veteran showing up and tearing down a shade canopy. I’m seeing a lot of lumping together of the two.
    If Angry Veteran had never shown up and made that scene, the council still would have had this meeting and had basically the same conversation and conclusions.

  • Phyllis

    I have nothing against the Pokeman game , but not in the cemetery please !! I just know I would not want people milling around my son’s grave!!!! Please be kind and understand that to many of us these places are very sacred ! !

    • Prometheus

      This isn’t a cemetery

  • Made in the USA

    Meh now they wanted to take away the park land and define set areas in the park to restrict activities it makes no sense. Its such a small space look it up on google maps. It used to be lake park now its veterans memorial park and only the little section in that loop and the soccer fields. Now they want to make that section a memorial but allow the park. It makes no dang sense any of it. Krage really should think of this. All it takes is a few go fund me campaigns or a couple willing lawyers with the right argument and the citizens of Winona lose out over a what? The arguments they are making about tents. They dont like the tents because they think shade kills the grass. An not that its july and a hot dry month. No it must be Pokemon GO. Hammocks? look at those pictures this entire place is inviting to come down relax and enjoy yourself. As long as your not causing damage no problem. This has nothing to do with vandalism, grass, monuments, tents, hammocks. nothing. They simply want to enforce their authority over people because they dont care about people playing the game and them being free to do what they want in their communities.

    No evidence has been shown other then someone not agreeing with someone using a sun shade in a park in their spare time. This law is unenforceable in any measure because of the reasoning and its highly unconstitutional. Its already a crime to vandalize a monument or damage private or city/public property. No need for any of this other to impose restrictions on others free will plain and simple. Its a public monument and no one should infringe how another chooses to interact with it in a peaceful, non-destructive manner.

    it should also be noted via https://mn.gov/oah/assets/638417728.primafacie.ord_tcm19-161455.pdf
    that Bruce Reed the veteran who went crazy ran Gerry Krage’s Campaign while he was deployed. So really he could be doing this simply to support bruce for supporting his position in the city council. You cant trust it. People need to look at the larger picture.

    “The Complainant ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for the Winona City Council
    in 2006. He was challenging incumbent councilman, Gerry Krage, who was serving in Iraq during the campaign. Bruce Reed managed Krage’s campaign in his absence.
    1
    The Complaint alleges that Mr. Reed violated Minn. Stat. §§ 211B.05, 211B.06, and
    211B.07 by placing a campaign advertisement in the October 4, 2006, edition of the
    Winona Post that allegedly contained false campaign material and lacked the phrase
    “”PAID ADVERTISEMENT” at the beginning or end of the advertisement.
    The advertisement stated in part as follows:
    Residents of the second ward need to be aware of the pack of rats that
    were running through Winona about two months ago. These were no
    ordinary rats; these rats had two legs. This pack of rats came to Winona
    by bikes, cars, trains, walking, and who knows how else a pack of rats are
    transported from one community to another.
    Law enforcement agencies from across Minnesota including the FBI were
    in Winona for approximately one week to help observe and control the rat
    pack. The average age of the rat pack was about 23 years old in human
    years.
    1 Complaint Ex. 1 (advertisement in October 4, 2006, edition of the Winona Post).
    3
    This rat pack that I speak of was a well-organized group of antigovernment,
    anti-religion, anti-school, anti-military, and anti just about
    everything else you can imagine. . . .
    One of the local organizers of this rat pack is a person that is running for
    the position of city council representative for the 2nd ward. This person
    wrongfully and illegally set up false residency here in the 2nd ward. He
    had to be removed by the elder homeowner’s family who hired an attorney
    from La Crosse. This person now resides in his car, has had a DUI, and
    has recently been charged with minor assault. I have also heard but not
    yet confirmed that this candidate for city council has had several
    restraining orders placed on him by Winona residents. Todd Ouellette is
    the person’s name that I am making the residents of the 2nd ward aware
    of. Yes, Todd Ouellette, remember that name. We do not need a person
    with his radical beliefs and ideas as our city council representative. . . .”

    it was unsuccessful but it shows alot towards the man character and possible intentions of the city council representatives. When someone clearly who has a vested interest in was the assaulter.