What The Media Didn’t Show: Baltimore’s Rollerskating Peacekeepers

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Roller skating is Randy Lewis Jr’s way of life. On his windowsill, an old skate now serves as a flowerpot. There are stuffed skates hanging from the ceiling in his living room and skate ornaments nestled into a small plant by the door. The memorabilia is in his kitchen, his bathroom, everywhere in the house. This is more than a personal hobby—he has a quad skate tattooed on his right forearm, Lewis is part of a thriving underground community of roller skaters. There really isn’t a name for what Lewis and his friends do on skates—every city has its own style. It’s part dance, set to a rhythm, but still different from anything most Americans have seen.

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There are hundreds of skaters in Baltimore, says Lewis. It’s a proud community. And so as the media continued to portray Baltimore as a city of thugs, the only way Lewis knew to reshape that image was to get out and roller skate.

On Tuesday afternoon, despite his mother’s pleas, Lewis grabbed his pair of well-worn outdoor skates, and set out towards the protests. He met about 15 friends at Shake & Bake on Pennsylvania Ave, the only remaining skating rink within the Baltimore city limits. Lewis’ friend Travis Johnson joined him. Johnson grew up in the city but recently moved out to the suburbs.

“Personally for me just sitting at home looking at everything I felt uneasy,” says Johnson. “Just being so removed, seeing it on TV, unfolding right in my city, I wanted to at least be down there to understand what is going on personally.”

rollerskating baltimore peacekeepers

“People had been saying this is like a war zone. It’s not a war zone, and we wanted to…