Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has spoken out against a neighborhood group that banned sitting on walls in a park because they said wall sitting led to pot smoking. (Matt Rourke, Associated Press file)

Philadelphia mayor to wall sitters: “Sit where you want”

A ban on sitting on Rittenhouse Square park walls was imposed when neighbors complained that the practice led to pot smoking

PHILADELPHIA — The mayor of Philadelphia is taking issue with a new rule banning people from sitting on walls in a park in a posh section of the city, saying his attitude is: “Sit where you want.”

The group that manages the Rittenhouse Square park said the ban on sitting on walls near a fountain was imposed Thursday after neighbors complained that the practice led to pot smoking. Jackie Whyte, of Friends of Rittenhouse, a nonprofit group in partnership with the city, said the decision stemmed from “continuous vandalism and marijuana smoking.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that neighbors packed a meeting four months ago complaining about loitering, homeless people and pot smoking. The walls were specifically cited as attracting large groups who engaged in drug use.

The city decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2014. The walls are popular places to sit at lunchtime, especially in warmer months as benches fill with office workers and area residents.

A Facebook group had organized a “Sittenhouse Lunch Time Sit-On” to perch on walls in protest of the ban. The group noted that following Mayor Jim Kenney’s post on Twitter, they will celebrate their success by sitting on the wall during lunch Tuesday.

The Democratic Kenney said on Twitter Saturday night that he was among those “frustrated” about the issue, saying “the government is very large and at times things just get by you.” But he concluded “Sit where you want” — a message accompanied with a “peace sign” emoji.

“Along with my liberal view of park use, please don’t litter, or graffiti the walls or smoke weed so obviously that you scare olds my age,” the mayor said in a second Twitter post that was accompanied by a smiley-face icon.