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After reading the article in the paper "Council says no to skateboarding," I felt I had to write in response.
I have been an avid skateboarder for 25 years. I have skated almost every spot in Gainesville. My friends and I would skate many hours each day. It did not harm anyone or anything. However, it did give us exercise, enjoyment and something to keep us occupied.
I drive by today and see guys skateboarding all over Gainesville. I will sit and watch them and see the enjoyment they are having. It gives many kids a sense of belonging. They skate in groups and even have names for the different groups and, no, they are not gangs.
I know at least 15 or more guys that would more than likely be involved in gangs if it were not for skateboards. I have been a mentor to several of these kids. They told me that skateboarding keeps them busy and that they use the majority of their spare time to skate.
They say, "we skate every single day." I have heard the words: we skate; we don't have time for gangs. They feel accepted as skateboarders and they feel a sense of belonging to a group. Research shows that one of the reasons kids join gangs is to have a sense of belonging. If you take skateboarding away from them, then the chance increases for them to become involved in gang activity.
I see these kids in groups skating every day, and I have skated with them in various spots through the city. Now, with this new law that the City Council is going to pass, it will mean that skateboarding in a parking lot or any public place will become a crime. Unbelievable!
The vast majority of the skateboarders I see and know are Hispanic teens. They are the ones that you mostly see skating in and around Gainesville. Could this be stereotyping taking place? Could it be that this law is being passed because these kids are Hispanic and in groups and therefore perceived as gang members? I would certainly hope not.
I know some skateboarders do cause problems and vandalize and are disrespectful, but why punish the entire skateboard community for the acts of a few? We hear it said so many times to kids: You need to get outside more, you need to stop watching so much television, you need to stop playing video games so much, don't be a couch potato. Now these kids listen to that advice, pick up skateboards, get out, are active and skate. Then, the City Council passes a law to ban skateboards from all public places.
What do you think is going through the minds of these kids? Confusion!