Police say skaters attacked hotel guards 

A group of skateboarders attacked two Portsmouth Square hotel security guards during an Easter morning confrontation, according to police reports.

At about 1:50 a.m. Sunday, a 58-year-old male guard at the Hilton Hotel at 750 Kearny St. told one skateboarder to stop skating in the hotel driveway, San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens said Tuesday.

"The skateboarder refused and the security guard stood in front of him while he was skateboarding, causing him to fall," Gittens said.

When the skateboarder got up, he began trying to hit the guard with his board, Gittens said. A group of about seven others allegedly joined him, hitting the guard once on his back, then striking a 40-year-old female guard once on her back when she came to help.

The skateboarders, described as six white males and two Latino males in their late teens to early 20s, escaped toward Broadway before police arrived, Gittens said.

The Hilton on Kearny Street has long been a focal point of tension between skateboarders and security guards and police, said Frank Petuya, assistant director of security at the hotel and a retired San Francisco police sergeant.

He pointed to a pedestrian bridge that leads from Portsmouth Square to the Chinese Community Center on the hotel’s third floor, which he said was a favorite spot for skateboarders.

"It’s posted, no skateboarding," he said. "It’s destruction of private property." Petuya indicated the chipped edges of benches along the bridge, which he said were damaged by skateboarders. "Sometimes we chase them away two times a day and sometimes it’s four times a week," he said. In addition to the damage, Petuya said skateboarding on the hotel and community center property poses a liability risk.

"It’s posted, but if one crashed and hit his head, who’d be held responsible? Not him," Petuya said.

But skateboarders see a different side of the issue. "They [The City] don’t provide any place to go skateboard but they continue to write tickets and throw people in jail [for skateboarding]," said a local skateboarder who works for San Francisco-based FTC Skate Company and gave his name as j Strada. "There’s nowhere for us to go skate, so why shouldn’t we skate at the hotel or the church or the library?"

The City does have a skate park near the intersection of Mission and Geneva streets, but Strada said it is poorly built and dangerous, with steep sides and badly built transition curves in the ramps from horizontal to vertical surfaces.

Strada indicated that Sunday’s incident was not the first violent clash between skateboarders and security guards in San Francisco and would not be the last. Meanwhile, Petuya said he and his security personnel would continue to shoo skateboarders off the hotel and community center property.

The two guards who were hit Sunday were not seriously injured and refused medical attention, Gittens said.

amartin@examiner.com

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