It was clear that we were unwelcome. As soon as Michael and I entered the skate spot in Washington Square Park, in front of the Giuseppe Garibaldi statue, two police officers glared at us. For Michael, born and raised in the projects uptown, the police were nothing new to him. Nevertheless, Michael acknowledged that the police presence at the park has been more pronounced recently. The police, along with the city council, would argue that the increase in the number of police had to do with stopping violent crime, prostitution, and drug use. But, as Michael asked me, since when has there not been violent crime, prostitution, and drug use at Washington Square Park?
We decided that we wouldn’t let their presence stop us from getting skate footage. However, we were not ready for something more insidious– a white woman with a permit. Apparently, the woman had obtained a permit to conduct a “salsa class” in front of the Garibaldi statue. The irony was not lost on us. A white woman pushing brown skaters out of the park to conduct a salsa class was too funny not to laugh at. After Michael bickered with the woman for a considerable amount of time, it became clear that we were not going to win; the woman glared at the police standing in the corner.
Michael and I decided to head over to the arch, another (not as good) skate spot. While heading over there, we noticed the two officers trailing behind us. Michael was understandably getting annoyed. He told me that this was the reason why so many skaters have stopped coming to Washington Square Park– they felt that they were constantly being watched. He said that Tompkins Square Park, in the East Village, was not much better. He'd noticed an increased police presence there too. Luckily, despite our annoyance, JB, along with his own skater crew, met up with us in front of the arch making it more difficult for the police to do anything with a larger presence. I asked JB what he thought about the number of police in the park. He grew irritated, stating that they were an oppressive presence pushing people out at curfew, harassing homeless people, and antagonizing local skaters in the park. JB kept reiterating to me that they were just trying to have fun. It was clear to me, watching him skate with the Go-Pro Camera smiling, that he was right: They were just trying to have fun.
Watch the full video here:
Do you have thoughts on the colonization and increased police presence in Washington Square Park or other areas of New York? Let us know in the comments or on social media at @honeysucklemagazine!
Featured photo: Michael tries to skate through Washington Square Park as the woman identified as a "colonizer" looks on. All images (C) Nathaniel Rodriguez / Honeysuckle Magazine.