Skaters want respect

by Norm Winick

While several local groups of youths and adults are meeting regularly trying to determine what teens want and what can be done to keep them off the street, there's one group who's been trying to tell adults what they want and nobody's listening.

Jerry Scott, Eron Bouvia, Dustin DuBois and Jason Smith are self-described ''skaters'' and they say there's still no place they can skateboard in town. ''In this town, there's nothing to do,'' adds Smith.

''They kick us out of everyplace in town,'' says DuBois. ''We just got kicked out of across the street.''

Besides, not letting them skate on streets, public parking lots and sidewalks, the skaters say they are hassled all the time. ''I was at the Community Center, just sitting down by the bike rack, I wasn't even skating, and a cop gave me a $50 ticket,'' added Jason. ''Sometimes they even take your board away. There's not enough real crime in this town to keep the cops busy. They'd rather we drink and do drugs.''

''It's not only the cops,'' added Dustin. ''It's business people and pedestrians who hassle us, too. They're scared of us. They think we're out to trash things up and knock old ladies down. We aren't like that. We move when people come near us. We don't skate where there's a crowd. We're just out to have fun and do what we like to do. We even get hassled at school by the other kids. The administration takes away our boards. You can bike to school, or scooter, but you can't skateboard. They don't even hassle the rollerbladers. The jocks and preps hassle us, too.''

''They don't realize that skateboarding is a real sport now,'' says Eron. ''When it started, it was mostly punks but that's not the case any more.''

Dustin says he lived in San Diego until about two years ago. ''There were plenty of places to skate. There were parks all over. Here, we just got kicked out of the last place we were told was legal-- the old A&W. We had ramps and stuff there. The cops kicked us out; they won't give us reasons and they won't let us ask. Galesburg has enough vacant lots and warehouses. All we need is an open spot, inside or outside. We can build our own stuff. I've built a launch ramp myself. We'd all help build stuff.''

''We could all help build the stuff but we still don't have a place to put it,'' added Jason. ''We were at the Corpus Christs Church lot and this priest came out and grabbed my board and he even started cussing at us.''

''My Mom is even willing to chip in to help pay the cost,'' said Eron.

Not everyone is hostile, however. ''I've had little old ladies give us cookies. Lots of times, little kids come and watch and want to try things. It's a great sport,'' says Dustin.

''We get blamed for spray painting all the time,'' laments Eron. ''We don't do that; that's not us. We don't damage tennis courts or anything. Bikers do a lot more damage than we can. The word is out that skateboarders are vandals; we're not.''

Jason says the system is biased against them. ''They build fields for softball and baseball and courts for tennis. We just get hassled. The city is saying, 'play these sports or nothing.' I'd like to be able to skate without feeling like a criminal. You can't even use your board as transportation to get from one place to another.''

The group says they're going to get some friends together and go before the City Council and ask for a place. They say they'd be satisfied with use of a city parking lot after the stores are closed or the old tennis courts at Lakeside -- anyplace. ''Skateboarders are some of the nicest people you could meet,'' explains Dustin. ''It's like a big family. We all just get along. people have no reason to hate us.''

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online September 25, 2000

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