Free LOVE Park
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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: June 22, 2005
Byline: Dan Geringer


For few hours, they lift boards at Park

IN WHAT can only be described as an urban miracle, hundreds of skateboarders invaded LOVE Park yesterday afternoon and for two joyous hours, under the watchful eyes of dozens of cops, succeeded in freeing their long-forbidden mecca for the first time in years.

Flocking to Philadelphia from as far away as Detroit and Virginia for the Emerica shoe company's "Wild in the Streets" all-day skate, the peaceful posse of boarders skated the legendary LOVE Park ledges featured in so many classic skateboard videos.

"This is a brotherhood," said a smiling Erik Ellington, one of many Emerica pros who led nearly 1,000 skateboarders through the streets of Philadelphia from 2nd and South to "Free LOVE Park" at 15th and JFK Boulevard.

"This brings awareness that we are a peaceful bunch, we don't cause trouble and we can come here in much larger numbers than the [bio-tech] protesters and not have any problems with the police," Ellington said.

"I heard that Mayor Street, who banned skateboarding in LOVE Park, was named one of the worst mayors in America by Newsweek," he said. "I heard that Mayor Daley, who welcomes skateboarding in downtown Chicago, was named one of the best. You think there's a connection?"

Hours before, protesters from the Convention Center gathered at the park.

The only sour note during the 3-5 p.m. LOVE Park skate-in came when a skateboarder fell during a trick, sending his skateboard into the foot of a Philadelphia narcotics officer.

It was clearly an accident, but the officer deliberately sat down on a bench that kids were doing tricks on and proceeded to eat an apple v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y while holding her nightstick in her other hand.

After watching for five minutes, Helen Bevivino, whose 16-year-old son is a skater, told the officer, "Don't be such a hard butt."

"The kids are putting on a great show," Bevivino said. "They're peaceful. For one day in LOVE Park, there's skateboarding without any trouble. What you're doing now is what starts trouble."

The assembled skateboarders banged their boards on the asphalt in approval, then moved on to skate the other ledges. The officer stayed put.

After LOVE Park, the skateboarders rolled down Broad Street to Front and Tasker, where they ended the long day by skating the concrete ramps and parking barriers under I-95.

"Free LOVE Park," said an exhausted Ellington. "Just free it up. You know?"

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