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the Love Park Protest
photos and writing by Phil Jackson

On Sunday, April 22nd, skateboarders from all over the Philadelphia area came to protest the plans to renovate (and ultimately skateproof) Love Park. Mayor Street and his buddies have decided that Love Park is too ugly to attract as many tourists as they would like and so the world-famous skate mecca we all know and love is slowly being deconstructed. The plans are fairly simple: get rid of the dull, grey tile and liven up the place with more “green”. You’ll find out the results that this protest had on the city’s plans later on in this piece...

The weather that Sunday was appropriate: not a speck of blue in a sky of rain-threatening clouds. I came as a photographer, a skateboarder under-cover. I know how people will treat you differently if you’re carrying a skateboard and I wanted to test this out for myself. The first thing that I noticed upon entering Love were a bunch of skateboard tombstones made out of some clay-like substance. Underneath the Love statue was a sign reading “boycott the x-games!” A propped-up tile was made into a makeshift launch over a tipped trashcan and skating was in full effect. Damian Smith 360 flipped it twice and a barage of other tricks were tried before the first police officers ruined their fun.

The first two cops arrived at the park and attempted to shut down the skating. They took apart the tile launch and threatened to lock everybody up.



Even I was told that I would be taken to jail, and I only had a camera. Nobody set foot on a skateboard for about half an hour, during which random chants of “free love park!” would break out. During one of these intermissions, an Ethan-Fowler lookalike strolled into the park with a boombox on his shoulder playing Sonic Youth. Everybody watched as he sat down on one of the ledges and put together a whole new setup.

By the time Fake Ethan was done, the cops had decided to let the kids skate. Multiple newscasters were documenting the day’s events and I was even interviewed (and mentioned in the paper) by one.

The cops had chosen not to ticket anyone skateboarding because of media attention and the desire to keep a respectable public image. One of the best things ever was watching those 15 Philadelphia police officers as they sat back and watched the whole thing go down.

During a different skating intermission prompted by police activity, a 69-year-old blind woman spoke up for the skaters. She talked about how the city is making criminals out of young people and the crowd hung on her every word. Somehow she got the idea in her head to try to ride a skateboard and she got a few pushes in, cane and everything.

Where were the undercover police officers today? Where were the children being made into criminals? The blind woman was breaking the law, why wasn’t she arrested? Once again Philadelphia compromises the law to better fit its selfish wants. Philadelphia is the city that does not love you back. Philadelphia is a city that will welcome the X-Games and allow skateboarders to break the law at a place where only a few days earlier they were being hunted down and fined. Philadelphia is a city that places undercover police officers at Love Park in order to ticket people instead of having those policemen fight real crime. If I’ve learned only one thing from this whole ordeal it is that there are more bad people out there than I previously thought. This city is willing to tear down a place that people worldwide dream about in order for a couple of tourists to drink coffee in a more visually pleasing environment. It boggles my mind to try to understand how these people can make the decisions they do. I do hope that the plan backfires because only then will Mayor Street be able to see what wrong he has done.

The following Thursday, a rent-a-fence was put up surrounding Love Park. City workers power-washed the wax off of everything and removed all the tiles next to the heavily-skated ledges. The city has agreed to build some sort of skateboard riding facility to replace our home. All I have left to remember the real Love Park by is two pieces of stolen granite. They’ve promised to donate the unused tiles as the riding surface for this place, rumored to be built next to the Philadelphia Art Museum. If we really did watch our home be destroyed, if we exchange a place like Love for a prefabricated park where we can be controlled, then we have all lost the only skateboard fight that was ever worth your trouble.