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 Skateboarding is Not a Crime

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MasterOfEvil
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PostSubject: Skateboarding is Not a Crime   Thu Jan 07, 2010 4:56 pm

Two brothers, arrested at Fresno City College on September 25, 2009, are still in the Fresno County Jail for an incident involving a skateboard. Demone Moultrie will soon be transferred to Chino State Prison. His brother Greg is in solitary confinement.

Does your right to carry a skateboard vanish into thin air when you step onto the Fresno City College campus? Ask Greg and Demone Moultrie, who are still sitting in the Fresno County Jail, what they think. According to witnesses, Greg Moultrie was walking on campus with his skateboard in his hands on September 25, 2009 when he was stopped by a campus police officer. The officer ordered Moultrie to hand over his skateboard. When he did not want to comply with what he felt was an unreasonable request, the incident escalated and Demone Moultrie, Greg’s brother, got involved. As officers scuffled with the Moultries, a student at the Native American Intertribal Student Association table got on the group’s PA system and encouraged students to use their cell phones to film the incident.

In video on the Internet < http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/local&id=7033613 >, you can see the chaotic scene, including one of the officers hitting Demone with his baton. Greg was sprayed with mace. Greg is now—more than three months after this incident—still sitting in the Fresno County Jail. He has just been given a 3 year sentence for charges filed against him in the skateboarding incident. When I went to visit Demone on December 22, Greg was in The Hole - solitary confinement. Demone is also still in jail and is scheduled to be sent to Chino State Prison on January 21, all because of this skateboarding incident. How could something as simple as walking across the FCC campus with a skateboard end up with two young men in jail for a prolonged period of time?

In an attempt to find out the answer to this question, I talked to students at FCC and contacted the Public Information Office. I received a response from Joseph Callahan, Chief of Police with the State Center Community College District who defended their “skateboarding is a crime” policy by stating that “once skateboards get away from their owner, they are little more than missiles capable of great harm.”

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MasterOfEvil
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PostSubject: Re: Skateboarding is Not a Crime   Thu Jan 07, 2010 4:57 pm

Just before school let out for winter break, I talked to JP, who was sitting on a bench next to the fountain where the incident had occurred. He had his skateboard with him. I asked if he had ever had any trouble with the police, and he told me about two incidents when he had his skateboard confiscated. “They took my skateboard when I was on the sidewalk on the McKinley side of the campus, and I had to pay $16 to get it back.”

Callahan says that if the fine is not paid within twenty-one days it doubles. He went on to say that “skateboards that are not claimed will be held for ninety days. After ninety days a letter will be mailed to the owner advising them that if they do not come in and pick up their property within thirty days, it will be transferred to the Director of Maintenance and Operations for auction.” That might explain why the police have a more than causal interest in confiscating skateboards, whether or not students are in violation of any rules.

Rigo Garcia is a member of the Sustainable Action Club at FCC. He said that “after the skateboarding incident in September, we tried to hold a forum on campus to discuss the incident.” Even though the club is a campus group, the school administration refused to allow them to use a building for the forum, in part because “they said we are an environmental group and that this issue didn’t have anything to do with the environment.” Garcia said that Sustainable Action is a social and economic justice group and that they should be able to discuss issues of concern on the campus. He feels the refusal by the FCC administration to allow them to use a room to discuss this issue was a violation of their free speech rights.

The FCC administration, immediately following the September 25 incident, banned campus groups from setting up tables near the fountain. Garcia said they claimed that it was a “security concern” because emergency vehicles would have a hard time getting on campus with student tables in the fountain area, but it is commonly understood at FCC that the ban was in response to the student group that got on the PA system, announced that the police were attacking students and asked if someone could turn on their cell phone and video the incident. The December 2 FCC Rampage (the student newspaper) had an in-depth story connecting the ban on tables at the fountain and the skateboarding incident.

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MasterOfEvil
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PostSubject: Re: Skateboarding is Not a Crime   Thu Jan 07, 2010 5:01 pm

“FCC has a new video surveillance system with a camera focused on the fountain, but they are telling us that somehow that camera was not working on September 25,” Garcia said. The missing video could have shown what happened before the police confronted, hit and arrested Greg and Demone Moultrie. Instead, what you have is missing video that would have given insight into the incident and the FCC administration retaliating against student groups because they encouraged fellow students to document the incident. In addition, they tried to prevent students from discussing the incident by refusing to allow Sustainable Action to hold a forum on the incident. What is it about academic freedom that the FCC administration doesn’t understand?

Garcia has a theory about why the FCC police behave the way they do. He says that when officers in the notoriously aggressive Fresno Police Department get into trouble, they end up with the FCC campus police. That could explain the culture at the FCC campus police, but it does not explain why the FCC administration allows these violations of basic constitutional rights to continue. If these violations continue, it is only a matter of time before an organization such as the American Civil Liberties Union becomes involved and files a lawsuit, resulting in a huge settlement or judgment against the college.

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