The group of New York cyclists who join the monthly Critical Mass Bike Ride is asking Mayor Michael Bloomberg to join in so he can see first-hand how they’re treated by police. They also say they are going to launch a letter campaign asking the mayor for a public hearing to explain why money is being spent to police their events. “Critical Mass happens around the world,” said Sara Stout of World Carfree Network. “It’s a creative and peaceful celebration of alternative methods of transportation, it happened here in New York City for eight years before the crackdown.”
“I believe if the mayor knew what was going on here, he’d put an end to it, because it’s just regular people,” said cyclist John Huntington. “It’s not radical anarchists, it’s not people acting out, it’s not people damaging property. It’s anybody on a bike that’s getting arrested.”
The city has been at odds with the riders, saying they need a permit to conduct their monthly bicycle ride. The mayor’s office is not commenting. (Bloomberg, Aug. 29)
The Aug. 26 ride was met with 49 arrests after taking off from Union Square Park. Writes one eye-witness, under the moniker NYCBKR: “I witnessed about twenty arrests at St. Marks and Third Ave. The Times also lists Houston St./ Second Ave., w. 18th St. and W. 34th St. as arrest locations. Earlier, as the ride proceeded along Greenwich Ave. towards 7th Ave. the NYPD attempted to block the front of the ride with vans while undercover officers on bikes aggressively chased cyclists. There was no warning given by the NYPD and their actions caused panic among peaceful cyclists who were forced to ride into oncoming traffic and risk their lives in order to avoid the trap.”
He concludes: “I fear that it will take the serious injury or death of an innocent cyclist before the likes of Bloomberg, [Police Commissier Raymond] Kelly or [assistant chief Bruce] Smolka come to their senses and call off these reckless monthly escapades by the NYPD.” (NYC Indymedia, Aug. 27)
The ride marked one year from the Critical Mass that kicked off the Republican National Convention protests, and saw the start of the crackdown, with over 250 arrested.
As the cyclists gathered in Union Square, they were sent off with a free-speech rally organized by the Still We Speak coalition in what has now become a monthly tradition. The coalition came together earlier this year to oppose the crackdown on Critical Mass, street artists, musicians and protesters. This month, it mingled with the ongoing vigil in Union Sqaure in support of Cindy Sheehan. Speakers included Norman Seigel, director of the NY Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and candidate for the publlic advocate’s office. (WW4 REPORT on the scene)
See also our recent call for global de-suburbanification.