Monday, July 9, 2007

Skateboarders Protest in Arkansas

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. A protest of the city's reinstatement of a police officer involved in a fracas with skateboarders drew more than two dozen chanting protesters to the scene where the boarders were arrested.

About 25 protesters kept their rides in their hands Sunday as they marched down a Central Avenue sidewalk. They were abiding by a city ordinance that bars skateboarding on downtown sidewalks.

The rule had led to the June 21 arrests of six boarders - two adults and four juveniles - by Officer Joey Williams. The incident attracted national attention after a video made by some of the skateboarders involved was posted on YouTube showing Williams on top of one of the skaters, apparently choking him. It also showed Williams putting two other skateboarders in a headlock.

Williams was suspended, but he was reinstated last week after an internal report concluded that he had used a proper amount of force during the arrests.

Jason C. Waite of Paris, Texas, who said he organized the protest Sunday, said Williams' treatment of the skateboarders was an "atrocity" and the officer used excessive force.

"Police brutality is bad for business!" the boarders chanted.

Hot Springs City Manager Kent Myers watched as the protesters walked along the sidewalk in a single-file line, chanting.

"It's been a very peaceful and orderly protest," he said. "There are a lot of emotions down here."

Police spokesman McCrary Means had no comment on the protest except to say that the skateboarders "have a right to exercise their freedom of speech."

Source: The Associated Press

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