Monday, July 9, 2007

Skaters and supporters protest officer's reinstatement

The viral video of a Hot Springs police officer arresting skateboarders hit a Texas man so hard, he came to Arkansas to lead a protest.
More than one-and-a-half million people have now checked out the video of Hot Springs Police Officer Joseph Williams arresting a group of skateboarders. Just this week, Williams was cleared of any wrong doing- saying he did not use excessive force, something not everyone agrees with.

"One individual should not beat children!" That was just one of the lines protesters used Sunday afternoon in Hot Springs. The mother of one of the children in the YouTube video spoke out for the first time Sunday and wanted to get out a message of fairness. "I've seen police that on, that do drug busts and house raids and things of this sort that no one is choked, " says the mother, who did not give FOX16 her name.

So Jason Waite, a Texan, organized Sunday's protest where the young and old, and skaters and non-skaters joined together against what they are calling police brutality. "This is a unified front for peace and to express our civil rights and to bring out the truth and hopefully seek some conflict resolution, " says Waite.

While Waite does not even live in Arkansas, he says the power of the Internet makes this a global issue. There is even someone on Ebay trying to sell the uncut, complete video. It is the only copy of the actual tape, which promises to show all of the day's events leading up to the arrests. The starting bid is one-thousand dollars, so far there are no takers.

But the interest in this case is high in Hot Springs. The protest even launched a counter-protest of people who say the skateboarders are out of control and running folks off the sidewalk. Their T-shirts show support for the police force. "Especially the police officer who was involved, no, he talks to my children. He's a nice officer, " says Tammi Ferrer who came to counter-protest.

Meanwhile, Waite made sure protesters stayed in straight lines, so they did not get in the way of tourists trying to shop. "We completely support our business 110-percent and we support our police department and our city officials 110-percent, " adds Waite. He also says the skateboarders have nowhere else to skate.

The police supporters say the kids smash into people and shouldn't even be out there without adult supervision.

This is the most viewed sports video on YouTube for the month so far. More than 16-thousand have left comments, so it is sparking debate all across the world.

Source: CW Arkansas by Kelly Dudzik

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