Sunday was supposed to be Go Skateboarding Day 2009, which offered the possibility that the skaters and the cops at Love Park would have the angry, pointless run-in to end angry pointless run-ins. Instead, the whole thing kind of fizzled out. Larry West blogs about the Center City lameness:
Then I saw them, two officers almost waiting to greet me as the skies remained gray above. They wore bright blue shirts and were not happy at my arrival. It was 10:58 AM and from a quick look around... no one was around. An odd sight for Go Skateboarding Day in Philadelphia, very odd indeed. "You know you can't skate here?," the officer asked while making the statement. I knew it very well. Dilworth Plaza has been off limit to skateboarders for years, and I was fine with that.
"I know, " I said, already feeling my lips tremor a little, not very easy though knowing I'm in the right. "Skateboarding is banned here, LOVE Park, and the Municipal Services building-"
"And the sidewalk and anywhere else in Center City."
"Um.... no? I have a copy of the law stating sidewalks are fine with me."
"Look, if we catch you, it's a $1000 fine, you loose your board, and you go to jail! I've already got 10 skateboards in my trunk! Now I'm giving you a warning!"
The other officer stood there, loosing his patience as I tried to calmly explain that... well, they were wrong. Its always an odd spot to be in, and you rarely ever win. But I had the law on my side, and a copy on my cellphone... that was getting increasingly hard to get to. As I tried to reason, the other officer took out his citation pad, ready to give me a ticket for doing nothing more than stating my case.
The rest of the day was a proverbial washout. Officers surrounded LOVE Park, showing very little of it for skateboarders, and the Municipal Services Building was as well. Other skateboarders arrived to enjoy the day... but to no avail. I took photos, did interviews, talked to people, and spent the entire day doing that.
Ever since skateboarding was banned from public places in Philadelphia back in 2002, the rules of the cat-and-mouse game between cops and skaters has been simple: The cops come and the skaters run. In the past, when skaters were apprehended, officers just removed the bolts from the wheels, preventing the owner from riding. Sometimes cops would break the boards or make a kid do a trick to get their board back. Worst-case scenario, skaters were arrested or ticketed or verbally reprimanded. But skaters say the rules have changed recently, and the new protocol is the stuff police brutality videos are made of. The game has turned into an extreme sport—even more dangerous than skateboarding itself.
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