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Protest on Wheels: Roller Skaters Rally In Front Of Oakland City Hall To Request A Public Skate Court

Katherine Monahan
Skaters in front of Oakland City Hall

Several groups have organized a weekly protest on wheels in front of Oakland’s City Hall. They’re asking the city to designate a free public skate court.

People have been skating in the Lake Merritt Boathouse parking lot pretty much daily since the beginning of the pandemic.

"It’s such a beautiful event. There’s all kinds of people. There’s families, there’s roller skaters, skateboarders, bikers," says Nicoletta Petrova, one of the founders of the skate group Oakland Rollers.

Mostly people just skate and play music in the parking lot. Some also drink, smoke cannabis, or sell food.

"And for the most part it’s been a very mellow uneventful chill event that's been really enjoyable to everybody who’s attended," says Petrova.

On weekends, events would go past midnight. Skaters say that, in June, the City of Oakland stopped turning on the lights in the parking lot, in contrast to the rest of the ornamental lamps that encircle the lake. And police began asking skaters to leave.

When asked, an Oakland official explained in a written statement that the city had received many complaints about music playing at “dangerous decibel levels.”

All Lake Merritt events are required to end by the park’s 10pm closing time, and skaters like Petrova say that would be a fair compromise.

Petrova and others hope Oakland will designate the boathouse, or another spot, as a free public skate space, like San Francisco did in Golden Gate Park on 6th Ave.

Meanwhile, they are skating in front of Oakland City Hall every Thursday to get the city’s attention.

As it turns out, the mosaic on the ground in front of City Hall is super smooth — excellent for roller skating. There are no speeches, no indignation expressed. Just grins and dance music.

For its part, The city suggests organizers get an events permit. That would cost about $250, according to the online application. Skaters would also be required to hire a security company.

In June the city opened an outdoor roller rink at Liberation Park in East Oakland. It costs $15 to skate there.