Skater protest - group photo #1
Skater protest - group photo #2
Skate without debate
Skating is not a crime
It’s not a crime!
Don’t try this at home!
Between fifteen and twenty youths with skateboards were gathered around the clock at the pedestrianised crossroads of The Parade and Regents Street, along with a journalist and photographer from the Adver, and somewhat unexpectedly, local tory councillor and proposer of the recent anti-ID card council motion  Peter Greenhalgh.
While the skaters got themselves organised, promising that the protest signs would arrive soon, the journalist interviewed cllr Greenhalgh. He stated his opposition to the idea of a ban on skateboarding, seeing it as another example of making young people the scapegoat for things they have nothing to do with. He pointed out that if any young people are committing any crimes, there are already plenty of laws under which they can be charged. A ban on skateboarding in town would do nothing to prevent vandalism and the like, but would serve to further alienate young people who are already blamed for much which they have nothing to do with.
As promised, the protest signs arrived, in the form of large sheets of blank white card. Some of the teenagers quickly scrawled slogans on them, such as “skating is not a crime” and “don’t ban sk8ing”, and then the Adver photographer got to work arranging them into photo opportunities. Whilst the photos were being taken, an elderly man riding a motability scooter stopped and posed for a photo holding one of the protest signs, to the delight of the teenagers and the bemusement of onlookers.
With the photo shoot done, the teenagers stayed grouped around the clock tower for a while, holding up their signs, skating around a bit, and in the case of one intrepid youngster, jumping off the top of a statue and landing almost perfectly on his skateboard. Somewhat reckless, I thought, but a very impressive trick all the same.
The proposed skate ban proved unpopular in a poll of Adver readers, with 61% opposing it , and it comes across as yet another example of a pointless and draconian restriction with the aim of authorities being seen to be doing something about a perceived problem of gangs of intimidating teenagers. Maybe Tony Blair’s clandestine visit to Swindon in January, to clean some graffiti off a wall in pursuit of his new “respect” agenda , has something to do with this. It is interesting to note that new graffiti is quickly removed from “Blair’s wall”, however other graffiti in the area is left untouched .
The thing that is missing from this picture is the gangs of intimidating teenagers. Certainly, groups of teenagers are a regular feature of the town centre. It is a place where teenagers have gravitated to for years, to hang out with their friends and meet new friends. I have never found them intimidating though, and have never been knocked flying by any inconsiderate skaters. The young people in town, whether with skateboards or without, are sometimes a minor irritation, but no more so than the families which spread across the entire thoroughfare whilst walking very slowly, or the toddlers that run in random directions without looking where they are going.
If I wanted to be intimidated in Swindon town centre, I’d take a late-evening walk through the unbelievably high density of trendy bars in the Fleet Street area, where a mass of loud drunken people continually stagger from one bar to the next, and one can never be sure whether the shouting is alcohol-fuelled exuberance or a fight about to start.
To put this in perspective, the most intimidated I have felt in recent years is when attending peaceful demonstrations where the police impose arbitrary restrictions under sections 12 and 14 of the public order act  . Although to date I have always escaped from these events unscathed, it is decidedly unsettling to be greeted by a police officer handing out leaflets dictating the exact order of the day, on pain of arrest for any deviation, almost as if merely attending a demonstration verges on criminal behaviour.
So, in answer to the question posed by the Adver’s headline on 22nd February, yes, this is a ban too far in my opinion.
 Skater free zone – is this a ban too far? http://archive.thisiswiltshire.co.uk/2006/02/22/263058.html
 Police order will prevent teenagers gathering http://archive.thisiswiltshire.co.uk/2005/9/19/249888.html
 Swindon Borough Council say no2id http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/01/332459.html
 Don’t put brakes on skateboarders http://archive.thisiswiltshire.co.uk/2006/02/24/263431.html
 Respect for PM on flying visit http://archive.thisiswiltshire.co.uk/2006/1/10/258789.html
 Worker’s anger at Blair wall treatment http://archive.thisiswiltshire.co.uk/2006/1/27/260423.html
 Disruption and Intimidation in Carterton, Oxfordshire http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/04/309720.html (note the recently added comment, regarding disinformation circulated by the RAF prior to this event)
 Anti-vivisection demo, Oxford, 23 July 2005 http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/07/319859.html