Is smaller better?
for Chicago's Finest?
In the wake of September's Grand Finale Critical Mass, 1st Friday mini-masses have sprung up in several Chicago neighborhoods. Wicker Park and Hyde Park have joined the ranks of Pilsen and Evanston. The theory is that smaller rides are more intimate for bikers and less intrusive for cagers; therefore minimizing potential confrontations with Chicago's Finest.
As one masser, Kathleen Ellis, wrote after Wicker Park's 1st Friday Critical Mass,
Last night revealed a whole new angle to the "local mass" concept - immediacy between each other, our neighbors, and the authorities. There's less anonymity for all involved - a smaller ride means that everybody sees something, and to a certain extent everybody gets to know or recognize everybody else.I too enthusiastically embraced this smaller is better concept as I set off from The Polish Triangle with around 200 bikers. But little that happened that night convinced me that it was a success. As Kathleen puts it,
The 14th Police District gave us an awful lot of unneeded attention last night. It seems a lot of tickets were given out for basically harassment purposes. It may be that the 14th District higher-ups, our alderman, or even our neighbors want to prevent the mass from happening. It is up to us to let them know not only that we are here to stay, but that it is a good thing for our community that we are there one night per month.
We were accompanied by 4 bicycle officers and 5 cruisers. That's approximately 1 officer for every 15 bikers. If we had the same ratio for Chicago Critical Mass there would be 100 officers!
By the end of the mass, Chicago's Finest had issued 6 citations. They started from the back of the mass. They then worked their way forward. Bikers were cited for failure to stay out of the oncoming lane or running red light. This is usually averted on the large masses by corking. In Wicker Park, however, the officers were corking; or more precisely, enforcing the traffic lights, repeatedly splitting the ride. By the time the citations were served, the rest of the bikers were long gone. By the end of the evening this state-sanctioned hand-holding had whittled us down to no more than a dozen riders. So Kathleen asks:
If you live within these boundaries, those officers who harassed you are YOUR police. They come to your neighborhood every day, and the authority is theirs to use and abuse against you, your family, your neighbors and your friends any time, day or night.
The citywide mass has the backing of the mayor - that much was said by one of the officers on duty last night. We need the backing of our aldermen to protect our first friday masses. The city doesn't make it easy to find out which ward you live in, but there's never been a better time to know! Here's a good place to start.