Click HERE to watch the video footage.
June 21 was Go Skateboarding Day across the United States. But for skater Matt McCormack and handful of others in Hot Springs, Ark., celebrating the unofficial holiday by hopping on their boards landed them behind bars and under house arrest.
According to the skaters, Police Officer Joey Williams used excessive force in apprehending them for violating a city ordinance against skateboarding on the street. They have circulated a video of the incident on YouTube that has garnered almost a million views since it was posted June 25 and landed Williams at the center of an internal misconduct investigation and on paid leave from his post.
McCormack, 21, who shot the video and posted it on YouTube, told ABC News that he always carries a digital camera while skating, as he is gathering material for a local skate shop and feels particularly fortunate to have caught this incident.
"On YouTube you can see [Williams] choking the 13-year-old girl," McCormack said. "I think it's wrong. He was calling us thugs, but if you think about it, we were a whole bunch of kids and none of us had any drugs on us or anything like that. That's not that thuggish."
McCormack told ABC that although he and the other skaters did know it was illegal to ride on the sidewalk, they had ridden there before and were never warned or threatened with arrest. He is more concerned with the excessive force he feels Williams used when the officer appeared to put a 13-year-old girl ? the youngest in their skating group ? in a chokehold.
"He could have just grabbed us by the arm and stopped us and then that would've been it," McCormack said.
Despite repeated attempts on behalf of ABC News, Williams could not be reached through the Hot Springs Police Department. However, fellow Officer Clifford McNeely said the incident was brought to the department's attention when a citizen sent the YouTube video to a department administrator.
"He is under paid administrative leave and is under investigation," McNeely said. "The matter will be investigated by senior officers and the chief."
McNeely added that the grass roots Internet effort by the skaters has spawned a deluge of calls and e-mails to the department.
"We are getting so many calls that people with problems are not getting through," McNeely said, adding that 911 calls come in to a separate line. "The administrative line is flooded. It's a lot of young people. Some call and want to file a complaint, but some call and cuss us."
McNeely said the kids should have known not to skate in downtown Hot Springs.
"It's posted no skateboarding," McNeely said. "There is just one street and its usually very crowded. Usually, there is a citation or a warning given, but people could be taken to jail."
Officer M.J. Means, the public information officer for the department, added that the department had also been receiving some calls from citizens who support Williams. "They understand that it's a city ordinance," he said.
John Bernard, executive director of the International Association of Skateboard Companies, a nonprofit organization that promotes the annual Go Skateboarding Day, told ABC News that he believes skater prejudice could have been a factor in the arrests.