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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: May 27, 2004
Byline: Ian Mosley-Duffy

Treatment of skaters is too harsh in Phila.

One clash with police proves the city hates the sport.

Recently, I had an encounter with the Philadelphia police that proved what I had always believed: Philadelphia hates skateboarders and skating in general.

I have been an avid street skateboarder for six years. There is an image of the street skateboarder as a drugged dropout, when in reality almost all of us are normal kids who just want to practice the sport we love.

In fact, my application essay for college was based on the destruction of LOVE Park as a site for skateboarding. My senior project — film work that helped with my acceptance to Temple University — and a recent scholarship both came out of my skateboarding.

On May 15, I decided to skate in LOVE Park, Philadelphia's most famous skateboarding spot, which has been closed to the sport for two years.

I skateboard at LOVE Park occasionally because it's a skateboarding mecca. I don't normally stay too long. Usually I just get chased out of the park.

As I was skating, I saw a policeman on a bicycle rolling along the sidewalk outside the park. When I started to leave, he yelled: "Stop, or you will be arrested." The officer came up next to me and jumped over his bike. In doing so, he knocked me to the ground.

Another officer came, and they held me down on the ground. They told me to cross my hands and shoved my head into the pavement. Both demanded: "Where are the needles? Where is your gun?" The policemen took my skate tool and train pass from my pocket.

I explained that I didn't have anything, that I was just skating in LOVE Park. The two officers screamed obscenities at me. They said I must be a bad skateboarder because I fell when I was knocked down.

They kept threatening that they were going to arrest me because I was so "f-ing stupid." I gave them my information: name, address and age. One of the officers screamed: "Did you get held back a few years or something? Are you some kind of retard?"

I was shocked that a police officer would do something like that simply for skateboarding. They continued to scream: "What's wrong with you?" "Are you going to cry now?" I was on the ground with my glasses in my hand, because they had broken in the fall. One officer said: "What are you going to do now? Tell your mom and dad that we broke your glasses? You obviously broke them because you were playing around with them on the ground."

The officers continued to grill me with questions that didn't seem relevant, such as whether I even had a job.

They wanted to know why I had come to Philadelphia. One accused me of coming to buy drugs. I kept repeating that I just wanted to skateboard. He looked in my eyes and asked if I was high. I told him: "No." He asked his partner whether I should be drug-tested.

The whole time, these guys were cursing and insulting me. They kept threatening me with jail and saying: "Now your mom and dad can pay your little ticket." One policeman took my board and told me that he was giving me a ticket for $75. (It ended up being $25, discounted for paying quickly.)

The other officer said that if I could catch my skate tool, I wouldn't need to go to jail. He threw it in the air, and I missed catching it. He laughed: "Are you kidding me? Want to try best out of three?" I caught the tool the other two times, and they let me go.

As they rode off, they yelled: "Goodbye, Ian, have a nice trip, but don't come back to Philadelphia."

The ban at LOVE Park is destroying skateboarding in Philadelphia. The ban is ridiculous, because even the man who designed the park, Edmund Bacon, wants skateboarders in it. The City of Philadelphia has rejected compromises to allow skateboarders back in.

I know that skateboarding in the park is wrong. But do I deserve this abuse? Is mentally and physically hurting another human being worth some kid jumping up and down on ledges all day on a skateboard?

Is this kind of harassment justified to keep the streets safe from skateboarders? homepage

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