D.C. Skaters Are Free to Grind As the Government Grinds to a Halt


According to The Wall Street Journal, the government shutdown has opened up a special, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for skateboard enthusiasts.

On Wednesday, the day after government workers vacated federal buildings in downtown Washington, professional skateboarder Darren Harper sent out a Facebook message to his crew: “One positive thing about the gov’t shutdown — spots at gov’t buildings are now skateable!”

The nation’s capital has long been known for its beautiful and ornate neoclassical buildings and sweeping stone plazas. But in the eyes of some, it’s even more than that. The sturdy railings, low stone benches, and ramps that decorate the city are ideal “obstacles” for skateboarding stunts.

"D.C. has some of the best spots architecturally for skating but also the tightest security," says Jonathan Mehring, a freelance photographer who lived and skated in the district in the early 2000s. "It's like torture for a skateboarder to be there."

But in recent days, because of the government shutdown, the “torture” has subsided considerably. The National Park Service has furloughed all but essential personnel, and many plazas are now empty and unguarded. Late Thursday afternoon, a half-dozen skateboarders glided up to Freedom Plaza, a city block of red granite and pale marble on 13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. By dusk, two-and-a-half dozen more had joined them.

A few of the skaters had their own stories to tell. Mr. Harper, the African-American skater who sent out the notification on Facebook, grew up in one of D.C.’s toughest neighborhoods. He credits skateboarding with “keeping him out of the ‘hood.” He has since won competitions and started his own skateboard and T-shirt lines. He speaks regularly to D.C. school kids, showing them that going into the drug industry isn’t their only path in life. While our country’s president is in the midst of a government dispute, the one who calls himself the “Obama of skateboarding” hopes to inspire others during his quest to become the first and greatest black professional skateboarder.