Old Man Makes LOVE

On October 28, Ed Bacon skated Philadelphia’s LOVE Park in protest of the city’s treatment of skateboarders.

Bacon, the 92-year-old, one-eyed father of Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon, conceived the idea for LOVE Park as part of his architectural thesis at Cornell University in 1932.

In response to his agenda for the informal protest, Bacon said, “I want to ride a skateboard across LOVE Park and get arrested.” Bacon wasn’t protesting alone. He brought Vincent Kling, the architect who actually designed the park. Bacon had called various local media, and reporters from Channel 6 News and City Paper showed up, along with a small crowd.

At the park, Bacon gave a short yet poignant speech to the small crowd, addressing the prohibition of skateboarding in Philadelphia as discrimination of the worst sort: “Philadelphia (is) against the youth of the world!” He then called upon Philadelphia’s mayor, John Street, to come down to LOVE Park “each day with a smile on his face and a warm, welcoming handshake to greet the skateboarders of the world.”

Following his speech, Bacon donned a helmet. With police watching from a distance, and with some help from friends, Bacon rode a skateboard toward the LOVE statue.

This is not the first time Bacon has addressed the treatment of skateboarders at LOVE, either. In the past, Bacon has written letters to the Philadelphia Inquirer and City Paper voicing his objection to the city’s ban on skateboarding.

This isn’t the first time the treatment of skaters has been protested, either. April 22 of 2002 saw a demonstration involving local skaters, major media stations, and random pedestrians who wanted to voice their objection. An elderly blind woman accused the city of making criminals out of children and even took a few pushes on a borrowed board.

Despite the protests, the city council decided to tear down J.F.K. Plaza, all but the landmark statue that gave LOVE Park its informal name. They then spent close to one-million dollars on a new, skater-unfriendly plaza that holds little appeal for non-skaters, as well. “The place is downright ugly,” says Mark Alan Hughes, columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.

A few skateable obstacles remain, but with round-the-clock police presence, few skaters are willing to risk a session. Instead, they have taken shelter down the street at Dilworth Plaza. Mayor Street insists that this will be little more than a temporary haven, though: “We’re going to do everything we can to enforce the rules on skateboarding,”

The city has proposed plans to spend 20,000 dollars on a skatepark on the Schuylkill River, below the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This site, away from public transportation, is a less-than-ideal compromise for the skaters, who weren’t keen on this alternative in the first place.

Following the demonstration, Bacon removed himself from the scene of the crime, unscathed. The modest crowd was left to reflect on Philadelphia’s slogan “The City That Loves You Back,” and Bacon’s subsequent addendum: “Unless you are under the age of 30 and like to skateboard, in which case we kick you in the butt.”