Joelle Boismenu, a member of the Oakland Rollers outside City Hall for the“All Wheels Meet-Up for All Wheels Advocacy and Awareness” event. Credit: Amir Aziz

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Oakland doesn’t have enough accessible, safe, and well-maintained places to skate, according to many in the skating community. 

On Thursday afternoon, members of the Oakland Rollers and other local all-wheels groups (a term used to describe roller skating, rollerblading, and skateboarding) gathered outside Oakland City Hall to frolic for their cause: more places to gather, have fun, and build community. The rally was the first of many the groups say they plan to organize, taking place every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. 

Roller skating has seen a revival during pandemic and skaters have gravitated to parts of Oakland like the Lake Merritt Boathouse, Brooklyn Basin, and other spots with smooth pavement for meetups. But skaters say their access is being revoked to many of these spots.

One of the largest recurring skater meetups took place in the parking lot at Ferry Point in Alameda. But on June 30, the skate community held “The Last Official Skate Night” at the location. 

“There were over 200 people there,” said Joelle Boismenu, a member of the Oakland Rollers. The spacious parking lot was a haven for OG skaters and newbies because of its size, location, and complete lack of traffic. But the parking lot is closed to skating due to the opening of a ferry terminal on July 1. From now on, the parking lot will often be filled with cars of commuters who are shuttling between Alameda and downtown San Francisco.

All Wheels meet-up to amplify current issues impacting the skating community by taking up space at Oakland’s City Hall. Credit: Amir Aziz

Members of the Oakland Rollers say they started the “All Wheels Meet-Up for All Wheels Advocacy and Awareness” event at Frank Ogawa Plaza to start a conversation with city officials about the need to have safe and inclusive spaces for all-wheels to gather. Some other Oakland groups that are part of this new weekly meet-up include East Baybes Skate, Lake People Skate, We Skate We SK8, Renegade Skate Brigade, and The Street Skate Collective.

“We want the city council to know that we need more safe and free spaces where we can gather,” said Nicoletta Petrova, another member of Oakland Rollers. “Places like the rink at Liberation Park are a start, but we need more.” 

The soft opening of the rink at Liberation Park on 73rd Avenue in East Oakland took place on June 27, but, according to an update on the GoFundMe established by David Miles Jr., the “GodFather of Skate” who is helping with the effort, there are still some tweaks needed to make it a sturdy rink. Currently, the fundraiser stands at just over $1,000 of the $10,000 goal. Oakland’s last roller rink, Rollerland, closed in 1973.

The Lake Merritt Sailboat House has been another popular place for skaters to mingle. But according to Boismenu and Petrova, skaters can no longer be there after sunset because the city has started turning the parking lot’s lights off at night. 

“They don’t want us there,” said Boismenu. 

Over 20 local all-wheels groups are part of the coalition making noise to bring awareness for the need of more recreational spaces. Credit: Amir Aziz.

Township Commons at Brooklyn Basin remains a popular location where skaters meet on the weekends, but Boismenu and Petrova agree that the paved space where skaters currently gather is too narrow and doesn’t accommodate large gatherings. Part of the Bay Area Roller Dance Festival was held at Brooklyn Basin on June 8 to June 13, with other events at Fairyland, Mosswood Park, and Smith Park. The festival was put together by the Oakland Roller Skate Association and Mooncricket Films. 

For now, the coalition of groups behind the “All Wheels Meet-Up for All Wheels Advocacy and Awareness” event hope to make some noise using their skating skills outside City Hall. 

Clarification: The story has been updated to reflect the list of Oakland-based groups supporting the weekly meetups.

Azucena Rasilla is an East Oakland native, a bilingual journalist reporting in Spanish and in English, and a longtime reporter on Oakland arts, culture and community. As an independent local journalist, she has reported for KQED Arts, The Bold Italic, Zora and The San Francisco Chronicle. She was a writer and social media editor for the East Bay Express, helping readers navigate Oakland’s rich artistic and creative landscapes through a wide range of innovative digital approaches.