After experiencing repeated harassment from a group of teenage skateboarders last summer, the SLOCO Junior Derby Devils started this year hoping these incidents were behind them. But at their weekly Sunday practice on April 10, it happened again.
"The skaters were grouped up getting ready for a drill," said Julie Chow, a SLOCO coach and the team's human resources board member. "Then a skateboarder climbed over the fence with his skateboard, and started skateboarding at the end of the rink where there were SLOCO skaters. I turned to look and there was already another coach working to escort this skateboarder out. He was pretty resistant."
- Photo Courtesy Of SLOCO Junior Derby Devils
- ‘CAN’T BE TOLERATED’ After a few months without any incidents, the SLOCO Junior Derby Devils once again experienced harassment by a group of teenage skateboarders at a recent practice.
SLOCO practices on Sunday afternoons at the Santa Rosa Skatepark. During this time, the rink is reserved only for the roller derby team's use—and skateboarders aren't allowed to use the rink anyway, because the surface is not made for skateboarding.
Another skateboarder started loudly shouting, "When can we use the rink?" Chow said. Then a member of the group lifted his shirt and exposed his chest. At this point, Chow called the police. A skateboarder came into the rink and started dribbling a basketball. The group proceeded to rip and deflate the ball, and throw it at SLOCO skaters, some of whom are as young as 6 years old. Then came the worst of the harassment.
"One of our skaters overheard one of them say, 'If I get in-line skates can I fuck one of your skaters?'" Chow said.
The police arrived shortly after.
"They came over and talked with us first. We showed them a video that we did have," Chow said. "Then they went over and talked to the other group. That's typically what they do."
SLO Police Department Operations Capt. Brian Amoroso said the officers who responded to the incident determined it did not rise to an actionable crime. When asked what level of harassment would amount to a crime, Amoroso said it depends on the situation.
"There is free speech in this country: Hurling an insult doesn't necessarily rise to the level of a crime, but it can in some cases," he said. "It's just important that people treat people with respect. ... We have to look at this on a case-by-case basis."
Chow said she and other SLOCO leaders have asked the city's Parks and Recreation Department to provide a skate marshall who would be present whenever the skatepark is open, or even just on the weekends when these incidents typically occur.
"There is a skate ambassador that is employed by the city, [but] he cannot be there all the time," Chow said. "What we've been told when we met with Parks and Rec is, 'Well, we really want to build a community coalition,' and, 'The skate park was built in a way that we shouldn't have to have constant supervision.' Which is all well and good ... but when things like this are happening, it can't be tolerated."
Fifteen-year-old Valkyrie Barker, a SLOCO captain, said "we're used to it, but we shouldn't be."
"We weren't happy, but we continued with practice," Barker said. "I'm a team captain so I kind of took charge as the coaches were talking to the officers. I kept practice going, tried to keep my friends safe and not let them get distracted by the words. ... We are frustrated, but we keep moving on. We invite anyone that would like to be friendly." Δ