Bicycle Diaries: The Canal Street Siege, Part II

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The Canal Street Siege, Part II

& besieged masses
across the country


Dave Newbart writes in The Sun Times, 2 September 2007:
Bike riders, cops clash; 7 arrested
Police force thousands to change route

Last month, a city official said the city was a "partner" with Critical Mass, the monthly ride in which thousands of cyclers pedal through various Chicago neighborhoods.

But Friday night, that partnership fizzled as Chicago Police took control of the ride, forbade riders to finish their planned route and then arrested seven riders on charges of obstructing traffic and disobeying police.

Longtime riders are upset at what they say were heavy-handed tactics by police.

"Our ride was taken over," said Dave "Mr. Bike" Glowacz, education director for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.

But authorities said the sheer number of riders -- estimated at 2,000 to 3,000 -- led authorities to take control of the ride. "Police have a
responsibility to ensure the safety of those citizens who are not participants," spokeswoman Monique Bond said Saturday.

Glowacz, 50, of Logan Square, and a friend spent hours creating Friday's route. The plan, distributed to all riders who gathered at Daley Center Plaza, was to ride slightly north and east, double back down Indiana, past Mayor Daley's home, through the IIT campus, past Sox Park, through Chinatown and then end at 12th Street Beach.

Several police officers rode with the bikers, including one at the front. When they got to Randolph just east of Columbus, an officer
announced, "'You are not going east of Michigan and you are not going down Indiana,'" recalled Glowacz. "'If you continue going that way, we
are going to lock you up.'"

The riders obeyed, and the officer steered the bicyclists west on Randolph to Wabash and then on various streets from there.

In interviews and on Internet forums Saturday, some riders speculated that police did not want cyclers to go by the mayor's house, especially
since earlier rides had gone down busy downtown streets before. But Bond denied that, saying "the route was redirected for safety reasons" away
from Jazzfest and a concert at Northerly Island.

Riders still wanted to finish at the lake and attempted to head east, but police refused to allow it, said Carl Hayden, who was at the front of the ride.

At Roosevelt and Canal, a standoff ensued as police would only allow riders to head west. Police arrested cyclists who they say refused to leave the intersection.

Dave Vondle, 24, an electrical engineer from Logan's Square, said he was arrested because "I didn't move fast enough."

Hayden, an information technology manager from Cary, was also arrested.

All seven spent the night in jail on misdemeanor charges.

Jason DeRusha reports on WCCO-Chanel 4, 31 August 2007:
19 Arrested In Minneapolis Bicycle Protest
Minneapolis Police arrested 17 adults and 2 juveniles during a monthly bicycle protest Friday night.

Hundreds of bicycles filled the streets of downtown Minneapolis starting at 6:30 p.m., as part of the Minnesota Critical Mass movement. According to a website maintained by the group, Critical Mass "is, more than anything else, a reclamation of space, a demonstration to show that the city belongs to people and not machines."

The group rides in Minneapolis on the last Friday of every month, according to Minneapolis Police Deputy Chief Rob Allen. Police have been monitoring the rides, and at times, escorting the bicyclists to protect them from the traffic the bicyclists are attempting to block.

The trouble started Friday night with one bicyclist.

"Somebody was driving straight at cars," said Deputy Chief Allen.

Police tried to arrest that bicyclist on Hennepin Avenue, but were unsuccessful. In a videotape of the incident provided by a friend of one of the bicyclists, the crowd grew vocal and restless as officers tried to make the arrest. "What's the charge? What's the charge?" the group chanted.

According to Police, the bicyclist escaped back into the mass of riders. Officers made another attempt at an arrest on LaSalle Street, not far from Loring Park, at 7:15 p.m. Friday.

"There were individuals physically trying to pull officers off the individual under arrest," said Deputy Chief Allen. That's when the officers called for backup, and at least 50 squad cars responded to the scene.

On the videotape provided to WCCO-TV, an officer is seen spraying pepper spray at some of the bicyclists. According to Allen, that was warranted, because the bicyclists were being aggressive and refusing to back away from the arrest scene.

"They were set upon by a large group who started fighting with the officers," he said.

But Matt Houston, a bicyclist from Florida, paints a different picture. "I got pepper sprayed in the face, in my eyes, I couldn't see anything," said Houston. He maintains the police were provoking the riders.

The "officer was basically trying to intimidate everybody there," according to Houston. "This just really exemplifies why I don't respect police officers, because they don't respect members of the general populace."

Allen said most of the people arrested will be charged with third degree riot. According to Minnesota statute, that's defined as "when three or more persons assembled disturb the public peace by an intentional act or threat of unlawful force or violence to person or property." The maximum penalty is one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Deputy Chief Allen said, his department has never had a problem with Critical Mass riders in the past, and he hopes the actions of a small portion of the group doesn't tarnish the positive message the group is trying to spread.

The Union Tribune reports, 1 September 2007:
Police arrested two bicyclists among a few hundred participants of a cycling-rights event making their way toward downtown San Diego last night.

Members of the Critical Mass ride were blocking traffic and running red lights on University Avenue through City Heights shortly after 9 p.m., a San Diego police officer said.

Police estimated from 100 to 400 riders rode on to North Park. An officer stopped one traffic offender at 28th and Redwood streets who allegedly resisted and was taken into custody. A second cyclist also was arrested after he allegedly refused to move out of an intersection while watching the first arrest.

The group continued on, some ending their ride at Balboa Park, others splintering off in other directions. According to a Critical Mass Web site, the worldwide movement for cycling rights began in San Francisco in 1992. Riders congregate on the last Friday of each month.

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Blogger Fritz said...

"But authorities said the sheer number of riders -- estimated at 2,000 to 3,000 -- led authorities to take control of the ride." -- Right. I'm sure authorities take control of the Dan Ryan and re-route traffic whenever more than two or three thousand cars get on it.

5/9/07 17:25  

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