words by Jon Hanks
Some say rules are meant to be broken, and skateboarding of course has a long tradition of ignoring rules and a disregard for authority in general. But in 2018, with skating on television, two years away from its Olympic debut and amongst a proliferation of publicly funded and promoted skateparks all over the country, way beyond the industry's epicenter in Southern California, it seems very strange that a skateboarder, specifically an adult who is using a public space for recreation during a designated time, should be intimidated and physically and forcefully decommissioned and subsequently arrested. But this did happen, just this past week, in Boston, at a skatepark.
Boston skater Derek Hanlon was arrested at the Lynch Family Skatepark in Cambridge for trespassing and resisting arrest. Hanlon and his friends were riding the park past dusk under the newly installed lights, as had been promoted by the Charles River Conservancy some time ago.
Massachusetts State Trooper Officer Kamel (Badge #814) made the arrest with questionable force and perhaps in confusion of what time the skatepark actually closes and is off limits. While asking the officer why the skaters were being asked to leave, Hanlon was ignored by the visibly incensed officer and eventually forcefully detained.
Since the incident, signs at the skatepark indicating its operating hours have been updated to read from dawn-dark, when they had previously read from dawn-9PM. The lights were on and in effect and people were skating after dusk when the state trooper arrived. Things got beyond ugly when Derek Hanlon asked officer Kamel why the skaters had to leave, particularly when the CRC had been promoting night skating (to which Hanlon, among others had donated to the funding of the lights).
Filmed by friend and fellow skateboarder Eric Abo, the video below shows the event unsprawl from the officer leaving his vehicle to the chaotic aftermath of the arrest. Eric Abo began filming at 8:26 PM, thirty four minutes before the skatepark was actually theoretically closed.
Boston endemic skateshop Orchard co-owner Armin Bachman was instrumental in bringing the issue to light by reposting Abo's footage on the shop's well-followed instagram page. The video quickly went viral amongst the skateboarding community and support for Hanlon has been outpouring since.
Derek Hanlon, admittedly burnt from whole ordeal was not available for comment, but filmer Eric Abo did inform me that the charges have since been dropped.
In a statement regarding the incident the Massachusetts State Trooper's office claimed that "Trooper (Kamel) had no choice but to arrest him (Hanlon)", although the footage tells the story of a an intelligent and reasonable Hanlon asking for a clear and concise reason, why he as a citizen should be forced to leave a public place, when the entities in charge have promoted its nighttime use. The statement from the police goes on further to say that Hanlon was not injured, when again, Eric Abo's footage tells a somewhat different story. There is a point in the footage where Hanlon is yelping in pain due to the officer's forceful tactics, and as he is escorted to Kamel's cruiser, Hanlon has a visible limp (which he did claim was from skating all day).
"The lights turned on like a week ago. Everybody was excited to use the new lights, so there was alot of people out", Abo explained over the phone. "When the cop came over Derek calmly asked him what was going on. All he wanted was a simple explanation." The officer did not answer any of Hanlon's questions, Abo said.
In a tweet issued in August of this year, the Charles River Conservancy wrote on their Twitter feed, "The lights at Lynch Family Skate Park are officially up and running. As the days get shorter this fall, skaters will get to skate into the evening."
Most people would likely assume that it is okay to skateboard at Lynch Family Skatepark after dusk under lights, particularly when the entity responsible for running the skatepark has been promoting it. Apparently Officer Kamel (Badge #814) didn't get the memo.
The officer repeatedly refused and ignored any questions, including what his badge number was. Abo's footage depicts literal ignorance, not hyperbole--officer Kamel repeatedly IGNORES the citizen's request for him to identify himself as a public servant and officer of the law.
The department doesn't make it easy to do so, but concerned skaters (and citizens) can contact MA State Police and issue a formal concerned citizen's report here, or call Internal Affairs at (508) 988-7003.
Skate harassment by the police is old news. We've been dealing with it since skaters first took to the streets, but one hardly expects it at a public skatepark. And beyond us skaters not being able to play with our wooden toys into the evening, the real issue is the Trooper's ignorance, rage and apparent unaccountability. Who polices the police? The answer is, more police, and unless you have the time and energy to fill out a bueuracratic dialect latent pdf, send it back to them and wait for a reply from the department, or press number after number in an automated system wasteland, they don't want to hear from you.
I wonder if the 2020 Olymics will include a due process event...
Derek Hanlon, nose bash in the saftey of a diy spot. photo by Alexandra Canal