Monday, December 14, 2009

Yes We Can! (Skate on Ellsworth Drive)

On Saturday, December 12th, a DTSS security guard told skaters that yes, we can skate on Ellsworth Drive (from the area in front of Potbelly's to the end of the block, at Ellsworth and Fenton.)

This is the same security guard who, several months ago, threatened to call the police on I and several other skaters for simply standing in front of New York & Co. holding our skateboards. I told him what he could clearly see — that we were not skating but standing there holding our boards. But because we refused his demand to leave Ellsworth, he proceeded to call the police via his walkie-talkie, telling them that we were still skateboarding on Ellsworth Drive. Rather than trying to fight this blatant deception, I and the other skaters I was with left DTSS.

On November 14th, I sent an email to the DTSS Property Manager and their Head of Security, asking them what legal basis they were using for prohibiting skateboarding on Ellsworth. It's now December 14th, and I have not received a response.

What the security guard told skaters Saturday night, that we can skate on Ellsworth, is what I have maintained every time I and other skaters got kicked out for skating there — that Ellsworth Drive is public space. County Executive Isiah Leggett said it back in 2007, and this has been documented in the Washington Post, as well as by Dan Reed at Just Up The Pike, so why are we even having this conversation...when it's almost 2010?
"The County considers Ellsworth to be a public forum permitting the free and unfettered exercise of First Amendment rights," Leggett (D) said in the letter to PFA Silver Spring LC and the Peterson Companies.
Lisa Jaeggi, along with other skateboarders, challenged the no-skateboarding rule in 2005, and back then her father, Richard Jaeggi, wrote that "Nowhere in Silver Spring is the prohibition of skateboards more rigorously enforced than in the heart of Silver Sprung on Ellsworth Drive."

The county has made its position clear. The Property Manager of DTSS has acknowledged the public nature of Ellsworth Drive, with Paul Liquorie of MCPD confirming.
Both Nettles and Liquorie said because Ellsworth Drive has been deemed a public street – Peterson leases the property from the county – residents have all their First Amendment rights and a curfew would not be possible.


"We have to maintain First Amendment rights," Nettles said.
And now that a DTSS security guard has told us we can skate on Ellsworth Drive, can we please, finally, put this issue to bed?

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