It seems this story on Good Morning America (about the skateboarder who was shoved by the cop) has raised quite a stir these last few days. Apparently, the sentiment against public skateboarding is an issue that has been quietly brewing under the covers in communities all over the nation. And this incident was just the spark needed to ignite public opinion. It's also an incident that is especially relevant to our community and our son Austin.
As all of my longterm readers are aware, my son has gained national attention himself for leading a large project to bring a skateboard plaza to our city (follow the related links at the bottom for the history of his story).
This incident in South Carolina is the exact reason why what Austin is doing is so important. Absolutely that guy should not have been skating on city benches, but in almost every town where illegal skateboarding is a problem, there is no other place for them to skate legally.
What's so interesting to me about this story is how polarized the public has become over whether the cop was right or wrong for what she did (I tried to link to the hundreds of comments on the ABC News message board but they don't keep a static forum history). To me that's a non-issue. Police (or anyone for that matter) are simply not allowed to shove someone unless they are trying to protect themselves in the name of self defense. And obviously, this guy was not attacking the police officer as he skated past her on a bench going 2 mph.
Unfortunately, this controversy stems from a couple of huge stereotypes against skaters:
1 - They destroy public property. The problem is, the only places that have the kinds of "features" (such as large cement stairs, rails and ledges) where skateboarders can execute their craft - are at business buildings on public property.
2. They are all disrespectful smart-asses. Well, over the last 6 months I've been working very closely with a large group of skateboarders in the planning of St. Cloud's new skate plaza, and I'm thrilled to say that this stereotype couldn't be any further from the truth. These young men have been coming to meetings, helping with designs and encouraging public support. In fact, on Friday night a group of local skateboarders held a huge fundraiser that brought in over 200 people and netted $600 in donations. Another fundraiser planned by the same group will be held in April with more to follow over the summer.
Actually, I can see how skateboarders can cop an attitude. In towns without skate parks, the only thing these kids ever here is "You can't skate here!" or "You're destroying public property!" Yeah, if that's the only thing I ever heard I would probably get a little defensive myself.
Unlike what is happening in South Carolina and towns all over America, our situation is demonstrating how the youth, parents and the city can effectively work together through mutual respect. The skaters have been attending all of the planning meetings and learning how they can help, and city officials have been attending the fundraisers and offering their support every step of the way. Now, instead of having a group of frustrated skaters doing whatever they feel is necessary to make a point, we now have a group of inspired skaters doing everything they can to make a skate park. It really is amazing.
And that's the difference. In most towns, the skaters are simply demanding that the city build them a skate park. In our town, the skaters are helping to build the skate park. That's a big difference.
And so my point is this - instead of jumping to conclusions that all skateboarders are delinquents who have no respect for authority or public property, take a minute and try to see it from their perspective. These are just kids who want to be left alone to engage in a healthy and creative sport, but everyone is telling them to go away.
Instead, let's tell them how to get involved so they can have a place to go.
Next up: Update on the St. Cloud Skate Plaza project - including the plans!
Related Reads - follow these links to read related posts about Austin and his project:
Dude With a Dream
Special Report - Skateboard Plaza Update
The story behind the story - ABC News Person of the Week
Picking up steam!