tampabay.com

Ollies and officers

National Skateboarding Day brings out the men in blue, too.

By JUSTIN GEORGE
Published June 22, 2007


TAMPA -- Scores of skateboarders gathered in the Bro Bowl, a green, pond-shaped skateboarding course, like a school of corralled fish.

National Skateboarding Day, an underground movement advertised through word of mouth and Myspace.com, had sent them Thursday to Perry Harvey Sr. Park. It also drew Tampa police officers. Blue uniforms stood at every turn. A police helicopter flew above. Squad cars circled, making downtown workers wonder.

"I thought it was the governor or maybe a diplomat," said Joann Finelli, 40.

Nope. Just skaters.

"They act like d----," David Martin, 15, a Bloomingdale Senior High School student, said of the police presence.

"They yelled at us for jaywalking. Who yells at us for jaywalking?"

The day began with a plan. Skaters would meet, roll downtown and attempt to "ollie" some stairs near the Sykes building.

Police stopped it. Last year, they arrested 15 people after more than 200 skaters caused traffic tieups and two auto accidents, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. They roughed up a security guard and caused about $5,000 in damage, she said.

Thursday, police passed out fliers bottling up boarders in the Bro Bowl. They warned them not to skate elsewhere.

They didn't. But, just after noon, they walked peacefully to a rally at nearby Joe Chillura Park. Ryan Clements, 33, general manager of the Skate Park of Tampa, thanked the crowd of 300.

Everyone dispersed. But this time, many took to their boards.

One teen crossed three lanes of traffic, causing a police officer to step off his bike to avoid a collision. Another, walking next to a bicycling officer, jumped on his board after the officer said, "don't do it," McElroy said.

Both 16, they were arrested and taken to a Juvenile Assessment Center, where they should be released to their parents, McElroy said. They face charges of opposing a police officer without violence and violating an ordinance prohibiting skating in downtown areas.

The ordinance carries a sentence of up to 60 days in jail.

"That's what our city resources are doing?" Clement asked.

McElroy said police just wanted to keep control.

"Our job today was not to come out and arrest kids," she said. "Our job was to make sure kids are safe."

For Trey Palmer, 18, it was an anticlimactic ending. He used his lunch break to wait near the Sykes building for the ollie contest. Saddled by a job at a car dealership, he envied the skaters.

"Real life," he said. "Gotta work. None of these kids have jobs."

He left disappointed when few showed up.

"Have to be at work in five minutes," Palmer said.

Times staff writer Abbie VanSickle contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.