(Photo above: Invert. Claremont, CA. Photo: Sam Muller)
Words by Mackenzie Eisenhour
Just as I was about to wrap up this Sandoval interview—he hit me with a bombshell. Ronnie's father, Felipe, the same man who dressed him in Dickies since day one, has another son serving in Iraq, and has been working hard to raise the Sandoval family for two decades, has been in jail for eight months facing deportation to Mexico—a country he left when he was two—with the prospect of never being allowed back to visit his family.
The Trump administration's Zero Tolerance immigration policy—enacted this past May—is already one of the darkest stains on the country since the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. On top of the near 2,300 children who have been ripped from their parents' arms—are lesser publicized stories like Ronnie's—where a family with deep roots in a community (San Pedro), a son serving in the military (Andy), and another son who is an international superstar backed by Krooked and Vans (Ronnie) is ripped apart for seemingly no other reason than to appease the spite of a brainwashed voter base.
Perhaps the story of Felipe Sandoval can remind us that these people being targeted and brutalized are not some faceless horde. They are our friends and neighbors. They are some of our favorite skateboarders and our biggest heroes or even their parents. They are us. Free Felipe.
“FREE MY DAD”
You guys are up in SF?
Yeah, it's for Trujillo's Vans shoe launch. All the boys are coming up here. We're going to a Giants game. I've never been. Trujillo is throwing the first pitch.
That's pretty heavy.
It would be funny if you just blew it.
Is Channel Street still closed?
The whole deal with Channel Street is just that the mayor of our city (San Pedro) and other people in office are just giving us the runaround. We raised enough money already; we just need more support to get our safety permit submitted. It's basically just about getting the ball rolling—lighting a fire under their asses.
I saw the @FreeChannelStreet handle. What else can people do to help?
Just follow that handle and start tagging City of Los Angeles, Joe Buscaino (City Councilman for the 15th district). Tag the news stations and tag anyone in that City Council office. Get the word out that instead of skateboarding down there it's just a fucking drug den now—heroin addicts and bums sleeping and shitting all over the skatepark. There are people getting mugged down there now. It sucks.
Is there any timeframe? They're not going to just demolish it right?
Hopefully they open it this year or next year. But it's going on its fourth year now of being closed.
People travel from all over the world to skate it. I can't understand why the city wouldn't want that.
Because they're not skateboarders. They don't understand the value of something so precious that they have.
I also saw you were trying to help your friend Ricky's family. Sorry for your loss. He was a long time Channel Street local?
He was everybody's friend. He was such a badass. He skateboarded with us; he was in our Wunga videos. We lost a real legend. It sucks. Cancer is just the worst. I don't know the exact form he had. But it was just a matter of time. I felt like he knew because he was coming around a lot and hanging out with everybody. I'm glad he's not in pain any more.
Is your brother Andy still serving in Iraq? He got you into skating correct?
He just left to Iraq. He's going to be there eleven months. Yeah, he got me into it. I'd seen him skating with his friends. Then we both started skating together. Eventually he quit and started playing football and stuff. I was already hooked. Then I saw Robbie Russo at Channel Street and that was like my second introduction to skateboarding. I wanted to do it like that.
Who else did you look up to?
My first skateboarder that I got into and really stoked on was Peter Hewitt. He still is my all time favorite skateboarder. I just thought, "That's how you do it." He was the only dude I saw back then doing inverts, I didn't even know what they were. I thought they were crazy handstands. But that was where all of that came into play.
We joked last time we talked that somebody was going to do a nollie flip eggplant and how it might be gross. I swear I recently saw a clip of someone doing like a kickflip eggplant or something on Instagram.
Leave 'em the way they are. They are sick enough already. Don't shit on something that is already beautiful.
What's new with the Dickies crew?
The just put on Jaime Foy. He's a gnarly animal. He's just a ball of gnar shit. The crew is sick. Solid fucking team and the program is awesome. I know everyone always says it like, "I've always worn Dickies…" But my dad always dressed me in Dickies pants. Thanks dad. Thank you Dickies.
I suppose most of us can name off some negatives for 2018, how about one reason that this is the best time ever to be alive?
Just enjoy life. Travel as much as you can. Whether it's on a corpo's dime or your dime. Hang out with your friends and don't take life for granted. Don't take anything for granted, because it could be taken away from you very quickly and very easily. Listen to your parents and stay in school. Stay on top of society's bullshit. Nowadays you gotta know your rights.
As a human being today you gotta know your rights. One day a police officer might try to fuck with you and might get physical. You need to know your rights. We all need to stand together and live our lives in peace. Do whatever makes you happy. You scooter, you rollerblade, you skim board—fuck it. Get it.
What would you say to someone trying to make it in skateboarding?
If you're trying to make it in skateboarding—stay true to yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Don't follow anybody. Be yourself. Don't think like, "These dudes drink and smoke. I gotta drink and smoke." You don't. I don't drink, and I don't smoke.
Good stuff man.
Can you possibly quote in the article, "Free my dad?"
Can you quote, "Free my dad." Because he's fighting for his rights as an American right now.
Your dad is?
Yeah. They're trying to deport my dad.
Yeah. They're trying to deport him and he's been in jail for about eight months now. We went to his court date and they denied him because he had two DUIs, but hasn't been to jail in the last fourteen years.
What's your dad's name?
His name is Felipe Sandoval.
I'm sorry to hear this man. You read about family separation and this horrible stuff in the news but you don't realize it's effecting people close.
All these families are getting torn apart and nobody gives a shit until it starts happening to them.
I have kids and when I read the stories about the family separations, it makes me almost physically sick. Nothing else matters when this is happening.
Fucking dumbass Trump.
Everybody has to vote in November. That's all there is to it.
Bring that dude down.
Bring him down with the vote. Oh man, I'm sorry to hear that man. That's a bummer.
Just gotta hope for the best.
Does he have a lawyer helping or anything?
Yeah. He's got a lawyer and everything. I write him every day. I'm just trying to get the word out. That's what he writes me every day, he tells me, don't take anything for granted, because you could be in a situation like his. They told him, "We don't know if we can ever allow you back in the United States." So he said, "Well I'll just stay in jail then for the rest of my life so I can be with my family. Because I have no family in Mexico."
They are deporting people who have been here for decades, people who have children serving in Iraq.
He was born in Mexico and moved here when he was maybe two.
He's American. He's more American than I am.
People are fucking stupid.
I'm sorry man. Let me know if I can do anything to help. I think this is wrong.
Thank you man. I appreciate it. We just gotta hope for the best.