Winona tests the freedom to play Pokemon

People of Winona: Return to your lawns before someone gets hurt.

The City Council in Winona, Minn., is voting tonight to ban Pokemon playing in the city’s Veterans Memorial Park, which was built by selling pavers honoring veterans.

That’s no place to play Pokemon, veteran Bruce Reed told the gamers — albeit someone less delicately (language alert) — in a YouTube video.

People, let’s step back a moment.

“I deal with PTSD, and I guess kind of the light went off in my head, I kind of snapped, I think. Let my emotions carry me. And this is what’s happened,” Reed tells KARE 11.

The Winona Daily News, in an editorial, urges the the City Council not to pass the ordinance.

It urges a bipartisan show of respect. “What could be more disrespectful than a display of vigilantism among monuments to men and women who died to preserve the rule of law?” it said.

What kind of respect is shown to the memory of men and women who died defending the Constitution, and the rights and freedoms it guarantees in proposing an ordinance that violates those rights and restricts those freedoms?

We may think it’s a dumb game, and we think there are more appropriate places to play it.

But our public parks belong to the public — Pokémon Go players included. No group, and certainly no self-appointed individuals, can legitimately lay special claim to what belongs to all of us equally.

The best solution isn’t having the Winona City Council write some new letters of the law, and it certainly isn’t asking the police department to intervene. If anything, we’d like to see the players and upset veterans come together on this one. The veterans would hear stories about an engaging new game, and be able to share stories with the players about the importance and reverence of a place like Veterans Memorial Park.

Pokémon Go fans have started a online petition to lobby against the ban, the Telegraph reports.

  • MrE85

    I’m with the Daily News on this one. Those playing the game should look up from their screens once in awhile to see if the location is appropriate to play the game in. If your little voice in your head whispers “maybe not,” then look for other hunting grounds, and catch ’em all.

  • John

    It looks to me that the folks in favor of the ban are getting “place of worship” and “public park” confused.

    Is it appropriate? Maybe not, though I have a hard time seeing why people get all uptight over people staring at their phones. There’s a huge gap between illegal and appropriate though. Yuge.

    • You know, this state was built on people sitting in a boat, putting a worm on a hook, throwing it in the water waiting for a fish to have lunch, pull the fish in a boat, and then throw the fish back in the water before the process is repeated over and over again.

      And nobody finds that weird at all.

      • jon

        I bet the reason they originally needed the boat was to get away from the people on shore telling them to go do something productive with their lives, or worse the bands of vegan hippies who would start chanting about how only a sociopath would harm animals for fun…

      • John

        I’m pretty consistently amazed by how much people hate on things they don’t do/understand and have zero impact on their personal lives. Personally, I find no reason to watch any sportsball at all, but millions love it. Go to town – if that’s your thing. (and it does impact my life – every time I need to go somewhere in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul and there’s a game on).

        I think George Carlin said it best (as he usually did – and I paraphrase) “It’s a good thing we all like different things, or you’d all be after my old lady.”

        • ForrestalMN

          By dismissively calling it “sportsball” haven’t you just belittled someone else’s enjoyment in a typical Lutheran, Minnesota, passive-aggressive sort of way?

          • John

            not really, or at least not intentionally. I’m just too lazy to list all the sports I don’t care about, so that’s my generic lumping together of basketball, baseball, football, soccer, golf, and (gasp) hockey.

            I do like swimming, skiing, cycling, biathalon, and a few other things, but none of them involve balls or pucks, so it’s also my way of delineating between the sports I understand the draw of, and those that I don’t.

            Like I said – do what makes you happy, and don’t worry about what other people think of your hobbies.

          • One of my wife’s favorite cheers when viewing any sort of sporting event:

            “LET’S PLAY SPORTSBALL!”

            /Cool story, Bro.

          • John

            I attempted to live blog the superbowl one year. I hammed it up a little bit, but my ignorance of the sport and complete lack of understanding of the draw made it pretty hilarious to me (hopefully to my friends/family on facebook too, who were forced to either ignore me or read along).

            My standard encouragement to my coworkers on Fridays in the fall is “Good luck watching other people exercise this weekend. I hope your team Sports’s harder than the other one and wins the trophy!.”

          • >> “Good luck watching other people exercise this weekend. I hope your team Sports’s harder than the other one and wins the trophy!.”<<

            Wait a minute…you're my wife aren't you…

            /The Piggers are going to go all the way this year!


          • John

            If I’m your wife, there are at least four of us who are very confused – you, your wife, my wife, and me.

            Or maybe that’s two of us? I’m already confused. 🙂

            Go Piggers!

          • ForrestalMN

            Oh, so you think they should be exercising instead of spectating? I’m getting where you’re going now.

        • Rob

          I’m sure his “old lady” appreciated the joke…

          • John

            I think it probably took a particularly special person to be Carlin’s life partner.

      • Rob

        I find it weird, but totally fine if that’s what moves your meter. I prefer kayaking, which I’m sure strikes the bait, catch and release crowd as weird. It’s all good. As to shade canopies, what’s wrong with trying to avoid being cooked to a crisp? Sounds eminently sensible to me.

      • Ben Chorn

        I’ve actually seen friends make a similar comparison to sports, given that they know more pokemon than professional sports players.

    • Winonan

      What has some people upset is not necessarily people sitting around looking at their phones. It’s more about the shade canopy, hammocks, boom boxes, grilling of food, and leaning on monuments.

      • Tim

        They’re mad that people are doing things that people normally do in parks?

      • Yeah, I read that. But what’s the problem with a shade canopy? It’s been hot out in the summer. What problem is a shade canopy causing?

        I haven’t seen any pictures of sitting on monuments etc., but perhaps.

      • John

        with the exception of the leaning on monuments (which could be addressed with a statute about leaning on monuments, if you want to go all legal about it), aren’t those pretty much the things people do in parks?

        • Dan

          Take the mall in DC. The odds are high you’ll see a game of Ultimate Frisbee, a BBQ, etc, but not right in front of the Vietnam Memorial. In that case, the grass in front of the memorial is chained off, but I suppose the planners in Winona figured people would use common sense and respect (something hard to define and sometimes lacking, but completely missing from 1’s and 0’s).

          There’s plenty of space in that park in Winona that ISN’T set aside for a memorial. Take a look around. There’s a playground right on the other side of the parking lot, and plenty of room for frolicking. The Pokemon players were setting up in that one small section containing the memorial.

      • slawman99

        Wait a minute. You’re telling me (in the middle of summer no less) that people are having BBQ’s, laying in the sun and touching things in a public park!?! This crime wave must stop! Parks are not for recreation! BTW, boom boxes? What year do you think this is? Those damn kids with their malt shops and transistor radios, I’m gonna tell Deputy Fife all about it.

  • Gary F

    Hopefully they will take a break from their phones and read the memorial.

    • The Daily News editorial notes that’s exactly what they do.

      • Winonan

        From a first-hand observer: I’m sure it happens, but if you stop and watch for five or ten minutes, you may or may not see someone stop and look at a memorial in the way we are talking about.

    • Kassie

      We went to the Peace/Rose/Trial gardens on Saturday to play Pokemon. Got lots of great ideas for our yard, read about the history of the gardens, and caught some Pokemon. It isn’t like you keep your head down the whole time, or at least I don’t. I think people are discovering all kinds of interesting places and things while playing.

      • Son and I walked around Oshkosh on Saturday and he was monitoring the Pokemon situation. Didn’t prevent either of us from looking up and watching the airshow or seeing things on the ground well worth seeing. It only added an interesting element to the occasion.

        People like to feel better about themselves by belittling the interests of others. It’s a sad scene.

        • Gary F

          The neighbor across the street has a mini-library and there is a Pokemon there. While enjoying a fine cigar and craft beer on Friday night, there were 7 people going up to the mini-library, catching the Pokeman and leaving, never looking to see what that person had to offer for books. My neighborhood is full of Pokeman zombies.

          • Cool story, Bro.

          • Why did they need to look at the books? They weren’t out to find books. They didn’t choose to go sit in a library.

            Basically, what we have here is people wanting desperately to feel better about their own lives but deciding that whatever their life is has to be the life that other people choose to experience.

            We’re really focusing on the wrong people here if we’re looking to find character flaws.

          • Rob

            They were probably illiterate, hence their total disinterest in the books.

          • What you did there, I see it.

          • Meghan

            People could just as easily criticize you for smoking and drinking when you could have been reading.

            Live and let live.

          • AH

            Exactly, Megan (and Bob Collins).

    • Rob

      Maybe Trump will also go to a Veteran’s Park and read the memorial.

      • I can see his tweet now: “They died while in combat. What a bunch of losers!”

    • Ben Chorn

      I’ve had friends that play PokemonGo who mention that they’ve found new places around town and fallen back in love with their cities. I’ve had locations pop up when I’ve played that I’ve never heard of- murals and sculptures etc.

      Of course I still have friends on Facebook who will continue to bash the game simply because they think it’s ‘childish’ and that people playing it should get a life/job. There’s also the negative aspects of the game, such as becoming targets for robberies and not being aware of walking through traffic.

      Overall though it gets people out to places they wouldn’t normally go to, and has even been used for promotional purposes (such as MLB ballparks advertising poke-stops).

    • Prudence

      or better yet read a real history book that explains why the Vietnam war was wrong and how it had nothing to do with “freedom”(The US was trying to help the French keep control of Indochina aka Vietnam).

      I laugh when people say Troops fight for freedom. The US has a long history of supporting dicators and overthrowing democratically elected government. The only people who are a threat to our freedoms are the people in the White House, Congress, Courts, State Legislators and City Councils and not some Afgans who still don’t even know man landed on the moon.

      • I recommend A Bright Shining Lie, by Neil Sheehan. It won a Pulitzer in the ’80s.

  • ForrestalMN

    Bizarre rant by the vets. What are they hurting? It’s a park: a place to frolic and do meaningless things.

  • Mark in Ohio

    I’m remembering a discussion or article some time back, about graveyards previously being used as parks and picnic locations. Sometimes I wonder if we have turned solemnity into a competition, where I have to be more solemn than you. While I’m not a Pokemon Go player, and don’t care to be, I’m also not opposed to the players at all. After all, all they are doing is walking around looking at their phones, a pretty harmless pair of activities. If they aren’t harming me, and aren’t harming the physical infrastructure, more power to ’em.

    • IIRC, Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis (very, very beautiful, btw) was designed in-part to be a public park, or at least be open to the public in a park-like setting. It’s not unusual to see walkers and joggers along its curvy byways.

      • Kassie

        I saw a play there once. It started at dusk and you walked around the cemetery following the play. It wasn’t the greatest show I’ve ever seen, but one of the most memorable.

        Also, the Pioneer Cemetery sometimes has movies and concerts, with a food truck.

  • ForrestalMN

    It’s Winona! There’s not much to do there. If the kids are hanging out in a park that, according to the story, isn’t used very much, at least that’s gotta be something good.

    • Winonan

      I always wonder what’s meant when people say there’s not much for people or teens or whoever to do in a city or town. I feel Winona has lots to offer in the way of outdoor recreation, arts (theater music, you name it), a skate park, and more. If we had X, Y, and Z activities or establishments available to Winona residents, I think people would still be bored and say “there’s nothing to do here.”

      • Looks like they found something to do. It’s just not what the old timers did when they were kids so it’s a bad thing.

        • ForrestalMN

          They’re kind of shaggy and slacker looking too. That probably gets under peoples’ skin.

          • Dang hippies.

            /Stay off my lawn!!


          • joolz

            I know more adults than kids playing that game 😉

          • “Kids” is all in your perspective. i still think my niece is a “kid” and she’s 36…

          • Tim

            Eh, it’s a college town; they should be used to that by now.

        • Winonan

          Eh, kinda. Maybe, maybe not. I stand by the idea that when Winonans drive by the Veterans’ Memorial, they are seeing things they have never seen before (shade canopy, boom box, people kicking a soccer ball around, grilling of food, etc.). These things may not sound evil, and they’re not, but it’s vastly different from how the area has been used in the past. You don’t have to be an old timer to think, “Wow. Okay. Is this appropriate? Is this what this space is meant for?” I’ve heard that even during the Trinona (triathlon) when there are gobs of people around the entire lake area where the memorial is located, that people tend to exercise a lot of decorum when it comes to that area. Truthfully, I think it’s way too easy to paint this whole issue with a “the old timers are just cranky” brush. It is way more nuanced than that.

          • How often do people actually stop at the park, as opposed to just driving by?

          • Winonan

            You mean Pokemon players? If that’s what you mean, there has been a group (groups) of players “camped out” at the memorial area, probably every day, for weeks. You drive by and you see lawn chairs, picnic blankets, a canopy (some days), with anywhere from ten to fifty people hanging out and playing the game.

          • No, I mean how many non-Pokemon people visit the park.

          • Winonan

            Not counting the winter months, I’d guess it would normally get visitors (non Pokemon playing visitors) every day. Difficult to say how many. It is adjacent to a community bandshell where there are concerts every week in the summer, with a big playground not far away from that. Also close to a park&rec place where you can rent canoes, and the walking path around East Lake Winona is adjacent to the edge of the memorial. All this is to say that a lot of people spend time outdoors right in that area. They recreate next to the memorial, and visit the memorial to look around or pay their respects. It’s not hopping with people on a day to day basis, but it’s not deserted, either.

          • Winonan

            A Reddit user put it better than anyone else: “Walking through quietly (not screaming omg a snorlax!) is fine, but why did you have to build a mini gypsy village.”

          • Correct me if I’m wrong, b/c I’m only going by Google street view, but isn’t this playground next to the memorial? Or is this another veterans memorial? And are those picnic tables?

          • Winonan

            Can you contact me outside of this forum? I can provide more info that way.

  • MarkUp

    Lakewood Cemetery by Harriet and Calhoun have several monuments as Poke-destinations. People mostly walk/stop on the sidewalk around the cemetery, and don’t go in. That’s a pity; it’s a great place to walk on a sunny afternoon.

    Their website now has a form where you can request removing or adding a location; it’s currently down due to the overwhelming load of requests. Another option on their form I found odd was “Report Inappropriate Trainer Behavior.” What behavior would people report? Trespassing? Littering? What does Niantic think they can do about it?

    • Kassie

      The inappropriate trainer behavior could be for the people hacking the game or otherwise cheating the game.

  • The best part of the rant, “This isn’t a f*ckin’ park!”

    – Said about “Veterans Memorial Park


    • jon

      Side rant:
      Veterans gets a day, and I’ve read some insistence that Veterans day is for people who are still alive, while Memorial day is for those who have died while in service to the country…

      Bearing that in mind what exactly is a Veterans memorial park? Is it a park to memorialize those who aren’t yet dead? Should there be an apostrophe? Or is it just an attempt to bring the two together and remember all of those who have served (or are serving?) in the US armed forces?

      Maybe all the answers are on the memorial in the park… but my curiosity probably isn’t strong enough to get me to drive to Winona.

      • >>Veterans day is for people who are still alive<<

        I look at it more as a day for ALL veterans, living or dead.

    • Rob

      He must be related to the Romney supporter who yelled, “tell the government to keep their hands off of my social security!”

        • ForrestalMN

          The Medicare sign looks like a fake

          • There’s always this one:

          • Or this one:

          • Another:

          • ForrestalMN

            A lot of Medicare funding was supposedly appropriated for ACA, so the last sign does have a point.

          • Tim

            They’re expressing it poorly, though. Medicare is already socialized medicine. That train left the station a long time ago.

          • KenB

            Actually, it’s not. The VA is socialized medicine: the docs and other providers are gov’t employees and the clinics are gov’t buildings. Medicare is a gov’t program (funding) that pays for medical care people get from non-gov’t providers.

          • I don’t understand. The fact the the docs are govt employees makes it socialized medicine. What would it have to look like to be whatever the opposite of socialized medicine is?

            I get that it’s government provided medicine, but isn’t that the fringe benefit of an employer toward an employee?

          • KenB

            Not-socialized medicine is the rest of the USA’s system (the non-VA everything else). The docs, nurses, pharmacists, and so on work for an HMO, a private hospital (system), a group, themselves (not much any more). Their *employer* isn’t the gov’t.

            When an employer provides a health care fringe benefit to an employee, it’s insurance. If the gov’t is the employer, the employee isn’t required to use a gov’t medical provider.

          • So you’re in favor of getting rid of the VA and providing vouchers? The odd thing is: I hear the VA service is quite good, once you get it.

            It sounds like you might have experience in the system. Can you share?

          • KenB

            No. I’m very interested in our dysfunctional health care payment system. I like the VA (see below), but I’d like to see the U.S. have Medicare for All. I was replying to Tim’s statement, “Medicare is already socialized medicine.” It’s not. It’s not medicine. It’s like insurance: it pays the bills for medical care for eligible people.

            You’re right. From what I’ve read, most (>>50%) of vets like the care the VA gives them, although they don’t like the scheduling and other non-care problems.

  • FWIW – Pokeman GO is basically geocaching, without the physical cache…

    • ForrestalMN

      It’d be more fun if there was a way to shoot the Pokemons

      • Winonan

        One difference, however, is that with geocaching I have never seen people park themselves for hours at a time, days after day, in the same spot, in order to “farm” game elements. That is exactly what is going on at Winona’s veterans memorial.

      • Rob

        With RPGs!

  • Winonan

    What’s being lost here is the massive change in the use of this park in a short period of time. Change isn’t necessarily bad or good, but the entire community needs to decide what kinds of things we are okay with seeing every day — if we don’t want something to occur every day, then we should think twice about it. Do we want someone to be able to erect a shade canopy wherever they choose, within this park? We either do or don’t want this. It’s either okay with us as a community, or it’s not. The fact is, there has been a shade canopy at this site more days than not over the last few weeks or more. There are other issues as well, but this is one of them.

    • Then the city should ban shade canopies. But vigiliantism is hardly a proper course of action.

      • Winonan

        “Then the city should ban shade canopies.” That is definitely a logical next step. The thing to remember is that the “crazy veterans” who showed up have nothing to do with the city council or its wishes.

  • Jay T. Berken

    It would be interesting if these men angry about people in a park playing Pokemon Go with a memorial that commemorates vets are also part of the anti-PC (political correct) crowd.

  • If I were down there, I’d almost be tempted just to sit at that park and read NewsCut on my iPhone for a couple hours…

    /Or am I doing that right now?
    //The world may never know.

  • Rob

    My wife and I scored sandwiches Saturday evening from Nelson’ s Cheese Shop near Como Park, then headed to a nice shady bench overlooking the Park’s newest fountains. As we were eating, several small groups of Pokemon pursuers came by. I don’t know if they enjoyed the fountains as much as we did, but so what? And it was very heartening to see so many people being active.

  • Dan

    I went walking on the Heritage Trail in Minneapolis last evening for the first time since Pokemon Go became a thing. It was a little busier than usual for a Sunday, mostly because of what appeared to be people playing Pokemon. I’m not sure if they got enjoyment from viewing St Anthony Falls, the Stone Arch Bridge, etc., and I don’t care. As long as they’re not clogging the running/biking trails, I don’t see why they would upset anyone.

    Now, at the Holocaust museum, as has been reported? I think they have a point.

    Veteran’s memorial park? I did a quick Google Street View look around the park. It looks like there are sections of the park with playground equipment, soccer fields, etc… and then a small section with memorials — which, as I can see from the video, is where the Pokemon players were setting up. The situation could have been handled better by all involved, the Pokemon players were acting like jerks, and the Vet quite obviously lost his temper. Now if it were any other kind of game, I’d think the players would just have moved, or chosen not to play there in the first place. But to “the cloud”, it probably all looks the same.

  • Jerry

    I think one problem with memorials (and cemeteries) is how much of this country do we want to set aside for people who are in no position to enjoy it?

  • Badboy35

    A law is not appropriate. What next, a law against having fun in some place because you say so? Work it out.

  • BT

    So were there charges pressed against any of the parties?

    • Bruce Daniel Reed, Jr., 68, was cited with disorderly conduct and fourth-degree criminal damage of property, according to the Winona Police Deputy Chief Tom Williams. (Rochester Post Bulletin)