NYPD cops videoed illegally warring on photographers

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96 Responses to “NYPD cops videoed illegally warring on photographers”

  1. Cupcake Faerie says:

    @#48 SEZ: “When they take your fist, use the second.”

    Oh great. That’s all we need, a mob of testosterone charged loonies in spandex waving rifles…

  2. ridl says:

    #18 Jonathan: The police have forced the cyclists into the kind of behavior you find so offensive. The only way to remain safe during an NYC critical mass is to remain as much as possible as the namesake mass. Because of police behavior, separation, even temporary (like for a red light), usually results in harassment, violence or arrest. At the very least, the police will insert themselves between the two groups and keep them from reforming, if possible herding them far away from each other. The bikers stopping cross-traffic are doing it to keep themselves safe from getting run over while maintaining the sanctity of their lawful protest, since the police refuse to. The onus to create a safe, celebratory, and non-conrontational critical mass is on the NYPD, not on the bikers brave and dedicated enough to keep it going month after month in the face of pretty intense armed hostility. As soon as the uniforms change their tactics and stop punishing protesters for obeying the law, the people will respond. See #20′s example.

  3. Keneke says:

    @#33 Greennigel:

    “Is there a word that describes the inappropriate invoking of 9/11?”

    Greennigel’s Corollary to Godwin’s Law.

  4. Lanval says:

    Hamadryad said: “Well no, but they have had their subway system attacked. Are you daft?”

    Hama ~ listen, the word “daft” has become obsolete per the example set by American media, which has set the goal of reducing daily English to approximately the vocabulary of Britney Spears. Using words like “daft” isn’t helping their cause, or your own, since most Americans will think you’ve mis-spelled “draft” and start protesting.

    Seriously, the cops have a lousy job, and yeah, it goes to their head. Happens to everyone though; can’t tell you how many times I’ve dealt with tech support people who treat customers like shite because the customer doesn’t understand the system as well as the do… all the while not recognizing that if the customer DID understand the system, the tech would be out of a job.

    Nothing special about the cops here in this video ~ I’ve ridden bicycles seriously for years, and while I agree with the goals of the Critical Mass movement in general (particularly in these recent days of expanding gas costs AND waistlines in the US, both of which contain tremendous hidden costs to the public), their methods are counterproductive and illegal.

    As someone who rode for years in a country redneck town, let me also suggest that we be cautious about vilifying the police as a whole. They’re most likely the reason some pissed-off redneck hasn’t given us all the “Easy-Rider” treatment.

    Best,

    Lanval

  5. Cupcake Faerie says:

    Oops, sorry about the double post.
    Also I meant to quote #49 not #48…sorry’bout that
    As for Critical Mass, I think Judas Priest say it best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYn5hxeFt10

  6. remmelt says:

    > This isn’t a free speech issue. If Critical Mass wants to hold a protest, fine, but not once a month for a decade.

    That’s a weird statement. Apart from the bikers being assholes or not, if they are protesting something I fully expect them to go on for a decade or however long it takes to be heard. Your statement makes it that much more an issue of free speech.

  7. k97 says:

    @ jeff .27

    london has had a long history of getting blown up, throughout the 1980s and 1990s the ira caused millions of $s worth of damage, then in the 1990s-2000s there was a series of racsist/homophobic nail bombings and more recently 7/7 bombings. so to argue that the nypd are llowed to illegally arrest and lie about the arressts of people cycling and filming is stupid and shifting the argument. the practicalities of the arressts do not lie with the perseved danger to motorists, because im sure there is less chance of a crash when all the cyclists are together as a moving mass vather than as three or four seperated smaller groups which have to keep on stoping and starting. as for the mass in london, it seems to be a lot easier to go on the mass and it is under no formal attack from the police, however they do try and undermine the fluid nature of it by ramming those at the back with large vans and blocking everyone together on all sides, steering the mass as best they can.

    the majority of cyclists in london do feel conected to critical mass and although there are some people who are more aggressive towards cars than others i think a mixture of minds is needed on any mass depending on the attitude of those who try and stop it, including cars.

    i feel the most important thing about keeping the mass going is to keep it moving, if it is constantly stoping and starting then cars often get more agrevated and those on bikes dont get to cycle as much, which is the whole idea.

  8. Tenn says:

    most Americans will think you’ve mis-spelled “draft” and start protesting.

    I may be missing a clever joke here, but I’d like to point out that its the whole entire world that has idiots, not just America.

  9. foobar says:

    Critical Mass has been heard. Ad nauseum.

    They aren’t trying to be heard, or to change people’s minds. They’re using force to impede those they disagree with. I’d compare it to anti-choice protests outside abortion clinics, but at least those assholes stop short of physically impeding access.

    I say this as someone who doesn’t own a car. Critical Mass blocks pedestrian and public transit as well. It needs to stop, and if that means banning bicycles, so be it. That’s the message they’re sending.

  10. SimplyAaron says:

    I think Johnathan V makes some very good points there, but still… there is no excuse for the police departments’ extremely poor conduct. I’ve been to a few “peaceful” disruptions of the peace before and never have I seen such outright abusive treatment by people who are supposedly trained in the art of dealing with this sort of thing.

  11. HornCologne says:

    @Daemon:

    Actually, though, I’m curious… what exactly is the legality of performing a citizen’s arrest on a police officer that is caught breaking the law?

    Theoretically legal or not, as the case may be, I think the immediate and more important subsequent question going through your mind should be:

    “What are my chances of living to see tomorrow without being beaten and/or tasered and/or thrown in jail and/or being shot for failing to understand the nature of reality and trying to pull a ‘citizen’s arrest’ stunt on an NYPD cop?”

  12. padster123 says:

    @ihamadryad #30

    I did NOT say that. You took someone else’s nonsense and put it in my mouth. VERY bad ettiquette.

    Mind your attributions, sir.

  13. DMcK says:

    One thing I’d like to know: What reason did the Civilian Complaint Review Board give to explain why they “cannot act”? Or are they still every bit as useless and ineffectual as always…

    …and old hat “radical chic” may be, but still way sexier than, say, “culture jamming”.

  14. cavalaxis says:

    Not on anyone’s side here, but if LE asks you for your ID, not providing it is violating a lawful order and grounds for arrest. It isn’t waiving your rights to agree to show ID.

    IANAL, but someone please educate me if this understanding is incorrect in NY state.

  15. Rider says:

    lets do something we know will piss off the cops over and over again and then complain when we piss off the cops. I’m all for protest but this is closer to plain old truancy, and they do it all the time.

  16. Vidiot says:

    Cavalaxis (and others) have asked about the laws governing showing ID in New York State.

    I am not a lawyer, but I did some research on this in November after being stopped by the NYPD for taking pictures in a subway station. Here’s what I came up with. Summarized:
    –New York State does have a stop-and-identify law, which means that you are required to show ID;
    –However, the New York law refers to officers detaining suspects, rather than just questioning them.
    –This would imply that the stop in question is a Terry stop, which requires the legal standard of “reasonable suspicion” of criminality.
    –In other words, an officer can ask you for ID, but it has to be a Terry stop (with “reasonable suspicion” as the standard) before you are compelled to produce it.

    New York state law is actually more granular and protective than federal law — look at People v. De Bour for the relevant case law. De Bour lays out four distinct tiers of police intrusion, and spells out the legal standard required for each level.

    The Supreme Court has held, incidentally, that refusal to identify oneself does not in and of itself constitute “reasonable suspicion” — see Brown v. Texas.

  17. betatron says:

    Dig that monster unicycle in the crosswalk. It’s a coker. Unicycles rule. i wonder if he got arrested…

  18. padster123 says:

    @JEFF #27

    Jeff, your ignorance never fails to amaze me.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=389519&in_page_id=1770

    Just one example from 30 years of terrorist bombings carried out in the UK. Not to mention the fact that we had several simultaneous bus and metro bombs just a few years ago. Didn’t they bother to report that on Fox News?

    Wake up sunshine – some of us are able to deal with terrorist nonsense without constant pant-wetting. Or should I say WERE.

  19. ill lich says:

    Wow, NYC is such a conservative city!

    (Snark alert– I know it’s really just the nature of cops to be conservative, and is not a reflection on NYC or any other city. Reminds me: we should actually be concerned about how the US Armed Forces is mostly conservative– that many like-minded people in control of firepower is screaming for a coup attempt.)

  20. darrell says:

    Teresa has the right idea here (amongst others). For those of us who have actually commuted by bike in NYC Critical Mass is extremely important. On a daily basis NYC automobile drivers disregard traffic laws, drive dangerously and intimidate both bikers and pedestrians. The law in NYC states that cyclists have (nearly) the same exact rights as any automobile on the street, yet constantly we are harassed, injured and killed. I’m not talking maniac bike messengers here…I’m talking normal, law-abiding bike riders. We like to feel safe, to feel a sense of solidarity once in awhile. Critical Mass gives us that chance. Before the police began their insane Critical Mass crackdown it was always a relatively safe and fun event for everyone involved, and even those watching. It is in the unfortunate bad behavior of “New York’s Finest” that we have Critical Mass turning into a controversy and a travesty. If they spent half as much time enforcing daily traffic violations and the like (by both cars and bikes) as they do harassing Critical Mass riders (and planning to harass them) then everyone would be a whole lot safer in the streets of New York.

  21. ultramoderate says:

    #14

    I was photographing a KKK rally, and I was glad the cops were there. Idiots on both sides of the issue were foaming at the mouth and just waiting to mix it up.

    They didn’t even bother me about my DSLR and Telephoto. Granted, this was small-town Alabama, not a locked-down metropolis.

  22. Jeff says:

    Willismonroe said: “However unlike New York we have complete police support.”

    Well bully for London. Have any skyscrappers blown up of late have you? And although constabulary might support your protestors, I recall reading on BoingBoing that you have a few issues with people taking pictures. There also seems to be an issue with all the CCTVs that are there to help watch the “supportive” police. All is not so merry in Old England.

  23. padster123 says:

    Jonathan:

    How about organzing those groups of inconvenienced pedestrians? Groups of them could run out into the stream of cyclists, forcing them to stop. You might even get a juicy pile up!

    I’m a cycle commuter (11 miles a day through rush hour London traffic), and a pedestrian, and I even drive a car (not often in town though).

    I’m broadly on the side of the cyclists and their protest. Cities need to wise up and make cycling a lot easier and safer.

    But then again, I do find mass cycle demos a bit intimidating, and there are a LOT of arsehole cyclists out there (single-gar bikes, reluctance to ever put a foot on the ground resulting in absurd wobbling around at intersections in everybody else’s way, exceedly bad attitude – you know who you are)

  24. Ceronomus says:

    It seems that, while the police may have been acting inappropriately, that this film is just a bit of Critical Mass propaganda. Having read here how Critical Mass itself simply ignores traffic laws (something here that nobody is denying), it makes them just as wrong, if not more so. After all, it means that they are instigating the problem about which they are complaining.

    I’ll leave my outrage for legitimate issues.

  25. jamesgyre says:

    @79 coldster

    “If Critical Mass really wanted to demonstrate the problems with cars, they should parade their cars around town (slowly) instead of their bikes.”

    why?

    blocking up roads with fume-spewing auto traffic is already done by most of the “mainstream”…

    also, a lot of critical mass attendants DON’T HAVE CARS (on purpose!)

  26. ihamadryad says:

    Padster123 said:

    “Well bully for London. Have any skyscrappers blown up of late have you?”

    Well no, but they have had their subway system attacked. Are you daft?

  27. Manny says:

    For reasons murky, my mother bought a copy of the official report on the Watts riot, with each section headed by a news photo taken on the day. The section entitled “Mob Violence” was illustrated by a photo of several cops dragging and hitting a man. I have never forgotten that.

  28. jamesgyre says:

    @ #84 DMCK

    “…and old hat “radical chic” may be, but still way sexier than, say, “culture jamming””

    one thing we agree on… culture jamming (as a term) makes me feel sick somewhere deep down… ick.

    and i love teresa! she’s a GREAT moderator.

  29. Cupcake Faerie says:

    I lived in Portland,Or for awhile and Critical Mass is well known there. Well known , not well liked. They are known for disrupting anything and anyone not associated with their objective: making spectacles of themselves during rush hour on the most traveled roads. I do not know if this can be considered free speech… I do believe what they are doing is overkill – and it even has a fascist sensibility to it – a “you are with us or you are against us” , as well as a certain uber-macho stance. Most of these giys (some gals too) would be into NASCAR if it weren’t for bicycles.

  30. SeppTB says:

    #66 – I’m not a lawyer either, but as I understand it from photographers rights websites, you’re never required to show ID to an officer. The exception is when pulled over while operating a motor vehicle you are required to provied proof you’re allowed to operate it.

    Think of it this way – people are not required to carry ID on them unless they are driving a car/truck/etc. So its pretty unreasonable for it to be a law that it must be provided on demand. So I’m walking down the sidewalk, didn’t bring my ID with me as I’m not in a car, a cop asks me for ID and I cannot produce, now I can be arrested for that alone? Makes no sense. Some states require you provide a name and address, not sure about NY specifically.

    However, I believe in cases where a person identification needs to be made police can hold someone without arrest up to the maximum 48 hours while trying to confirm identity.

    Ms. Lin could have handled the situation better and said something like “No, I don’t have ID” rather than just walking away. But the cops arresting her for that alone is not legal either, and certainly not on trumped up assault charges.

    I find it interesting the tone of the comments here, despite any issues people may have with critial mass, why is it ok for the police to act like this, make things up and arrest people on trumped up and obviously false charges?

  31. wnoise says:

    Not on anyone’s side here, but if LE asks you for your ID, not providing it is violating a lawful order and grounds for arrest. It isn’t waiving your rights to agree to show ID.

    IANAL, but someone please educate me if this understanding is incorrect in NY state.

    I am also not a lawyer, but it was my understanding that “lawful order” in this context means “order pursuant to their duties and powers derived from their authority as law enforcement. They can legally ask you anything, including for your ID and while it may not be an “unlawful” order, it’s not necessarily a lawful order. A policeman directing traffic, on the other hand, is directly carrying out authorized duties.

  32. Takuan says:

    1. I am very disappointed not one person has told IHamadryad she is out of her tree.

    2. have they ever tried giving Critical Mass what they asked for?

  33. nate_freewheel says:

    Think of things in terms of physics. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. People who do value propelling themselves by their own steam via cycling, the natural world, personal accountability–those that oppose big oil, big government, and big business and such have been attacked for the past century by automobiles, trains, skyscrapers, and asshole cops decimating their natural habitat and threatening free thought and human autonomy with extinction.

    Now, there is an equally unjust resistance forming. Consider automobiles to be -1 and bicycles to be +1. Critical Mass is an effort to make two integers cancel out. There is nothing fair about either side; these actions are justified by what they offset, not as isolated incidents.

    Mass is not fair, but what is fair about the automobile thoroughfares and train tracks raping our collectively owned wilderness? For that matter, what is fair about property ownership in general? Mass give everyone an opportunity to think through some fundamental questions about American life.

  34. DMcK says:

    #93, Darrell: I hope I didn’t give the impression that I disagree with CM’s overall goals; I just don’t think they have a clue how to acheive them at this point. I remember a time when there were no bike lanes in NYC…NONE. Has CM taken the time to find out how that was acheived, and by whom? In other cities, have CM’s rides effected any positive changes for bikers; if so, were other methods of advocacy also involved? Does CM in NYC have the ears of any sympathetic city council members, or other public officials working with transportation and public safety issues? Bloomberg is on a greening kick, and has been known to hop on a bike now and then: does CM have any contacts with his office? In other words, maybe approaching biker safety concerns from a consumer advocacy angle (similar to how Straphangers Network advocates on behalf of mass-transit users) would be more effective than these activist stunts which a large number of other NYC residents consider to be an annoying inconvenience at best, and which have pissed off the NYPD ever since the ill-considered RNC ride. In the meantime, this tit-for-tat nonsense fueled by hotheads on both sides isn’t doing anyone any favors.

  35. GreenNigel says:

    Perhaps Jeff @27 can explain to us all what exploding skyscrapers have to do with a bicycle protest.

    Is there a word that describes the inappropriate invoking of 9/11?

  36. Antinous says:

    Not all of us are conversant with Hoover era slang.

  37. Santa's Knee says:

    Caltrops

  38. Graham says:

    “Adjerned”?

  39. DKH says:

    I have been a pedestrian while CM is holding one of their “protests,” and it was damned scary! It is a bewildering message that a mob of cyclists who disregard all rules of the road while terrorizing the populace can somehow “raise consciousness” about bikers in a positive way.

    Also, I walk the streets of Manhattan every single day. With almost 100% consistency, it is bikers who run red lights and zip past people crossing the street with absolutely zero regard for safety. Cars do run red lights now and again, but nowhere near as often as bikes.

  40. Takuan says:

    you all soon will be

  41. Santa's Knee says:

    @#33 Greennigel:

    “Is there a word that describes the inappropriate invoking of 9/11?”

    Republican

  42. Takuan says:

    The word “Bushville” derives from the name of the President of the United States at the beginning of the Second Great Depression, George W. Bush. They used Bush’s name because they were frustrated and disappointed with his involvement in the relief effort for the Depression. In addition to financial troubles during the Depression, a drought in the entire South forced farmers to auction their land for taxes and reside in Bushvilles.[1]

    These settlements were often formed in horrible neighborhoods or desolate areas and consisted of dozens or hundreds of shacks and tents that were temporary residences of those left unemployed and homeless by the Depression. People slept in anything from open piano crates to the ground. Authorities did not officially recognize these Bushvilles and occasionally removed the occupants for technically trespassing on private lands, but they were frequently tolerated out of necessity.

    Some of the men who were made to live in these conditions possessed building skills and were able to build their houses out of stone. Most people, however, resorted to building their residences out of box wood, cardboard, and any scraps of metal they could find. Some individuals even lived in sewer mains.

    Most of these unemployed residents of the Bushvilles begged for food from those who had housing during this era. Several other terms came into use during this era, such as “Bush blanket” (old newspaper used as blanketing) and “Bush flag” (an empty pocket turned inside out). “Bush leather” was cardboard used to line a shoe with the sole worn through. A “Bush wagon” was a car with horses tied to it because the owner could not afford gasoline.”

  43. Antinous says:

    You made a run to the liquor store today, didn’t you?

  44. bardfinn says:

    So what we have is in fact two groups, the NYPD and the Critical Mass bicyclist group, who are both cheating / breaking the law, and both are justifying their cheating / breaking the law because the other is cheating / breaking the law.

    So who will be first to stop breaking the law?

  45. Charles Guarino says:

    “Is there a word that describes the inappropriate invoking of 9/11?”

    How about Osamwin, as in “he Osamwin-ed the thread.”

  46. Takuan says:

    not so much a run as a pipeline

  47. Gilbert Wham says:

    “Have any skyscrappers (sic) blown up of late have you?”

    Er, we’ve had quite a lot of stuff blown up over the years including, quite famously, the then ruling Tory party’s conference in Brighton. Mortar attacks on Downing street, Canary Wharf, the Tube bombings etc, etc. I wouldn’t say the Met aren’t just as capable of being deeply unpleasant as the NYPD, but just that your argument is ludicrous.

  48. xopl says:

    In Minneapolis a Critical Mass participant was arrested for allegedly assaulting an officer. He was acquitted because cell phone video evidence contradicted police officer testimony. The videos did not show him assaulting or threatening any of the officers.

    The two most disturbing things from the trial were A) that the police officers had such poor recollection of the events and 2) their excuse for escalating their presence and amount of force at the Critical Mass event: they said they heard there might be some Republican National Convention protesters showing up who might want to damage some property.

  49. SeppTB says:

    Even if Critical Mass was in the wrong for breaking traffic laws, does that give NYPD the right to make false arrest statements and blatantly lie, and then get away with that? Charging someone with interfering with an arrest that happens after their own, and then charging Lin at the end there with assault, thats a bit much. They could charge them with running a redlight or reckless endagerment on a roadway if they did that, but whats the need for 5 cops to throw a small woman off her bike for taking a picture and refusing to show ID?

  50. Jeff says:

    Moderator, I know my British history. All the way back to pre-Rome. Do you? That said, I’m the one in favor of CCTVs, and I am not in favor of allowing what Lodoners are seemingly okay with. So, is your point that I don’t know how bad London has suffered in the past, and that New York hasn’t suffered enough, and that New York police are over zealous? Okay, that makes good sense. I’m sorry, but I don’t think messing up traffic in New York is nice or effective at doing anything but pissing people off. If the people in London are cool with it, great. More power to them. Strike a Pose.

  51. Junior Mad Scientist says:

    Wow. Great documentation of an evil scene. Well done.

    My brother’s a cop. (Seriously.) We once got into a discussion about illegal searches. It ended with him calling me a “flaming liberal.” I can only imagine what he’d make of this footage. I ain’t asking, though.

  52. Xodarap says:

    #41: QFT!

    Why is it so hard for adults to wrap their heads around the kindergarten axiom: “Two wrongs don’t make a right”?

    I know arrogant assholes who push people around and cause problems. If I shot one of them, would people say, “Well, he *was* an asshole!” You see, the fact that the Critical Mass demonstrators are annoying asses — or even breaking the law — has nothing to do with the wrongness of the NYPD actions. Nothing. At. All.

  53. Doran says:

    I’m so glad CNN, NPR, ABC, and all the news orgs have been all over this.

  54. Ceronomus says:

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, but NOT committing a wrong can prevent another one. If these cycling cretins hadn’t been breaking the law in the first place, the second event wouldn’t have happened. So, while it does NOT excuse the actions of the police in this case, it certainly wipes away any sympathy I have on a bunch of idiots.

    So no, two wrongs don’t make a right. However when the second wrong is directed at a bunch of retarded gibbons who KNOW that they are causing trouble? Then two wrongs makes no sympathy.

  55. Nick Shogun says:

    The first photographer didn’t really listen, though. I can understand how the bikers got screwed, but the photographer taking pictures of Vasquez’s arrest didn’t really move away at all.

  56. jamie says:

    Well bully for London. Have any skyscrappers blown up of late have you?

    Hang on… This is like the underwear gnomes isn’t it?

    Step 1) Terrorists crash planes in to buildings.
    Step 2) ???
    Step 3) Cops pushing people from their bikes on to the road falls under reasonable force.

  57. Takuan says:

    so? If the New York Police Department can randomly execute people with mass gunfire and be acquitted, why is this notable?

  58. DMcK says:

    Otter, #56: I really doubt the organizers of the RNC (the date for which is set WELL in advance) ever heard of Critical Mass, let alone knew their ride schedule. Whereas CM must have had some idea of the kind of heightened city-wide security conditions that would be surrounding the event, and the resulting touchiness of the NYPD…yet they decided to press the issue anyway. Smells like a calculated testing of boundaries if not outright provacation to me, although I think the NYPD were chumps to take the bait. Sadly, I don’t see either side of this idiotic grudge match backing down anytime soon.

    DKH, #73: I agree with you 100%, those rides are more than just an “inconvenience” (but better than being a dead Iraqi child, OK #55? Is there a Godwin’s corrolary to describe deployment of that ridiculous hyperbole as well?). But remember, in the CM universe, it’s your fault for being in the way! Traffic signals are fascist oppressors! Cyclists don’t run headlong into parked cars either, they “get doored”! etc. etc.

    I stand by my perception of CM being disingenuous. On paper they want to be seen as innocuously civic-minded as the Straphanger’s Network, and their stated goal of safer urban cycling is inarguably laudable. From what I’ve heard they seem to go out of their way to foster good relations with the law in most communities. But the NYC chapter has become too enamored of their annoying, radical chic, fuck-the-pigs stance for that to wash. Their near-total disregard for the community outside of their clique (including other cyclists!) is not helping them in the least. In other words, they royally screwed the pooch, yet somehow it’s everybody else who’s keepin’ these humble civic reformers down.

  59. mikelotus says:

    Shame on Bloomberg. Cops lie? All I can say is oink, oink, oink.

  60. LogrusZed says:

    When anyone, pig or otherwise, decides to infringe on any of my constitutionally guaranteed rights and those in authority over them choose to ignore this in spite of substantiating evidence then I advocate using my second amendment rights to take back whichever other rights they are attempting to quash.

    That’s right, I’m advocating using violent means to defend democracy. Remember kids: Violence as a tool for democracy and liberty, it’s not just for Iraq.

  61. consideredopinion says:

    re: #75

    That’s because the bicyclists are in a group large enough to see and exhibiting fairly predictable behavior. For those who don’t see bike road kill as a sport, driving downtown is terrifying. Lower Market Street should really be a no-car zone.

    It’s a fair point that at least at the CM’s start in SF, the mass is clumped, and mostly compliant with basic road rules (e.g. side of road). I also take your point about Market St. hazards. Ultimately though, in a city as small as SF, no one road user can have total use all the time. It gets right to the heart of the CoExist campaign.

    It’s part of the romance of CM to actually see bicycles attain the dominance of a car on the city’s streets, even for its brief moment. The role-reversal in the power relationships on the road is straight out of Fat Tuesday. And yes, it can definitely be irksome when it’s real, and not a packaged tourist exposition.

    re: #77 If Critical Mass really wanted to demonstrate the problems with cars, they should parade their cars around town (slowly) instead of their bikes.

    As others have mentioned, the point is to *be on a bicycle* … moreover, how would deliberate automotive congestion be distinguishible from any other day of the week? Even with the theatrics, the troublesome anarchists, the event remains a form of political action. It therefore needs the attention it attracts.

  62. Gainclone says:

    This makes me sad. It’s a weird feeling, seeing this sort of thing coming from such an authoritative institution as the police. I know it’s nothing new, or special… this kind of treatment has existed for ages… but I guess I just can’t express the complex thoughts and feelings I experience when I see incidents like this. Something about authority abusing their power in such a way. It makes my gut feel tight. It’s almost like nervousness, or anger. The sort of feeling where you want to DO something DRASTIC, but you understand the futility of any action you might take, and become further frustrated.

    The emotion is best described using lengthy streams of raving, frothing colorful metaphor and extreme profanity, but I’ll try to avoid that.

  63. scottfree says:

    Hasn’t the Critical Mass been illegal on Manhattan for years? I seem to think Brooklyn carries on apace, but I definitely saw a video several years ago of police being dicks to cyclists on Critical Mass in Manhattan. Actually there was a very funny scene where about ten of them were lined up on scooters, all decked out in riot gear, as they do, you know. I defy even the most hard-nosed fascist to look dignified on a scooter.

  64. foobar says:

    Free assembly does not grant you the right to intentionally and continually make yourself a hazard to navigation.

  65. Antinous says:

    Free assembly does not grant you the right to intentionally and continually make yourself a hazard to navigation.

    There’s a constitutional right to drive?

  66. Ceronomus says:

    Ah yes, let’s just shoot everyone because the police got rough on some people breaking the law. Great thinking.

    How exactly ARE police supposed to stop lawbreakers on bicycles? Just wait for them to get tired? It isn’t like the police were dragging them off their bikes and beating them with batons. They simply used the most expedient way of stopping them.

    If you want to be outraged about NY police, be pissed off that they can murder a man after his bachelor party and get off scott free. Remember, if you want to get pissy about rights, let’s start with LIFE…not an imagined right to ignore traffic laws because you don’t like them.

    Getting all pissy and viva revolution because they stopped some morons who were collectively ignoring the law? That’s not exactly a worthy cause.

  67. consideredopinion says:

    I won’t make assumptions about the preponderance of arseholes in NYC, be they on foot, on bicycle, in a car, or have a badge – but I can share a little of my own CM experience.

    The typical CM in San Francisco is met with largely positive support from pedestrians *and* motorists. The police have usually been effective conflict managers and default to their highest priority purpose of public safety during an event that is by nature uncontrolled and uncontrollable. I also give SFPD credit for keeping cyclists off of highways and bridges.

    Are some drivers & motorcyclists put out by the instant-congestion? Yes. Likewise, people dependent on surface transportation have been stuck during CM. The best sit back & enjoy the show, the worst engage in conflict.

    Still, with a start time of 6pm, a known starting point, and a well-advertised monthly existence, it’s a wonder that more people don’t know to expect the CM.

    Are some cyclists aggressive monkeys who ruin the experience for all concerned? Yes. They represented the greatest shortcoming of the CM as a self-regulating system. The testosterone brigade really should be arrested, and sometimes are.

    Still, at least for my fair city, with a history of dreaming of new possibilities and welcoming all types – the CMs I have experienced are one part of my city’s identity, and are in effect as eventful as San Juan Capistrano’s migrating swallows.

    Additionally, credit is due to organizations like the SF Bike Coalition for sponsoring “Critical Manners” – and to others who promote safety awareness such as “The Ride of Silence.”

  68. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Calmly, Padster. It’s a simple error.

    iHamadryad, he does have a point. It was Jeff you were responding to.

    Jeff, London really does get blown up a lot more often than we do, and political bombings have been going on there a lot longer. You know how some U.S. stores make you check your tote bag/backpack/other baggage when you enter? Not in London. They don’t want to give anyone a legitimate excuse to set down a parcel and walk away from it. That was already established practice when I first visited there in 1984.

    Check out K97′s comment, which currently is #62.

    Cavalaxis, I know there are states where you’re not required to show ID if you aren’t driving. I’d like to know what the NY laws are. (See also SeppTB @68.)

    Lanval, there are Briticisms that confuse Americans (f.i., “twee”), but I’ve never thought “daft” was one of them.

    Foobar @8, “Free assembly does not grant you the right to intentionally and continually make yourself a hazard to navigation” describes about a third of the drivers waiting to enter the Holland Tunnel from the NJ Turnpike every weekday morning.

    Cupcake Faerie, is NASCAR so obviously objectionable that you don’t have to explain the comparison?

    Logruszed @45, who needs agents provocateurs when you’re around?

    I don’t see what’s so confusing about Critical Mass’s message. They’re saying the streets belong to bicyclists every bit as much as they belong to drivers. You may disagree with the way they make it, but is there a NYC cyclist here who thinks that point doesn’t need to be made? Who hasn’t repeatedly had to swerve out into traffic to avoid cars parked in bike lanes, or had drivers try to crowd you out of your lane because they don’t understand that we’re vehicular traffic too?

    A few Manhattan streets and intersections get snarled by an overconcentration of bicycle traffic for about an hour every month. Traffic in practically every street in Manhattan and in large areas of the outer boroughs gets snarled and jammed for hours every weekday morning and again in the evening. Do they have to be there? No. Do they have a parade permit? No. Do some of them flagrantly disregard the traffic laws, and drive like complete jerks? You betcha they do.

    See also Otter’s comment, @56.

    DKH, I’ve been a pedestrian on the ground during lots of Critical Mass rides, and they never alarmed me. Bicyclists pay a lot more attention than cars do.

    “Radical chic”? That is sooooo 60s. Early 70s at the very latest — and that’s if you learned it from the paperback edition of Tom Wolfe’s collected essays.

  69. Antinous says:

    how would deliberate automotive congestion be distinguishable from any other day of the week?

    I drove to downtown SF from the Outer Sunset. Once. After that I just drove to the Castro, parked and took MUNI if I need to go downtown. It’s a hostile environment for cars and bikes. Actually, I got run over once at Third and Market, so for pedestrians, too.

  70. jonodavis says:

    @ scottfree

    I remember that same funny scene of NYPD on mopeds, but it got decidedly less funny when they jailed me overnight and impounded my bicycle for two months, on bogus charges that they knew would be thrown out in court.

    The process becomes the punishment.

  71. jamesgyre says:

    @# 75

    i’m familiar with the radical-chic lunacy that is in my mind completely privileged. however i don’t think that it is fair to invoke godwin’s law here in the case of my comparing the inconvenience of a driver (or pedestrian or biker) encountering an even unruly, mass-holish critical mass to an armless iraqi child. the point is they are of DIFFERENT scales.

    my problem is i see a lot more outrage from critical mass’s detractors about critical mass than about the issues that critical mass is addressing… especially concerning the “illegality” (imagine a whiny tone…). there are few things more “illegal” than wars… the war on public space, the war on public safety, and the war on public access to the means of survival.

    note: i’m not saying you are pro war… i’m saying some of the vitriol at critical mass is misplaced… can you blame punks from being foolish in the face of such grander idiocy?

    also, note: and i’ve never ridden in new york city’s so i have no first-hand accounts. my local pittsburgh chapter is the height of creativity, open-mindedness and respect. it still gets the shit kicked out of it by police.

  72. Antinous says:

    The typical CM in San Francisco is met with largely positive support from pedestrians *and* motorists.

    That’s because the bicyclists are in a group large enough to see and exhibiting fairly predictable behavior. For those who don’t see bike road kill as a sport, driving downtown is terrifying. Lower Market Street should really be a no-car zone.

  73. LogrusZed says:

    Ceronomus: I assume you’re responding to me, if not disregard.

    I specified that I advocate violent defense of the constitution and, by extension, our civil liberties after those in overall authority have ignored evidence that such trespasses have taken place.

    If you’re government refuses to support your rights then you can either bend over and let them drive or revolt with violent means, because you’ve been left no other recourse.

    Police make mistakes, and so long as they are answerable for those mistakes then there is no real problem. This, however, is one of many examples of the emerging police state. You think this is exaggeration, probably, but this is how a police state gets started. These polices are not being held accountable by those whom should be answerable to we citizens, so it’s time for them to answer directly.

  74. ridl says:

    There’s a constitutional right to drive without non-motorized vehicles inconveniencing you?

    What’s scary is how afraid the police are of human-held point-and-shoots in one of the most camera-monitored blocks on the planet. They know whatever they do, the official watchers will never produce any incriminating evidence, but who knows what those dirty freedom-haters will do with any footage they might take. Not that any of these “peace officers” worry that they will be held accountable for their actions, but some of the routine false arrests they make might be able to walk out of their cage without being dehumanized for more than a few hours.

    Every action I’ve seen the NYPD take at protests seems aimed at stifling and suppressing free speech and dissent. As long as police aren’t held accountable for their riots (any cops lose a badge over the RNC police riot?) they will continue to make sure anyone who points a camera at them knows they are open targets for violence, theft of property (how much you want to bet those poor kids bikes (read: only form of transportation) stayed impounded for at least a couple months?) and the dehumanization of being sent as human cattle to a concrete cell for hours, days, or weeks.

    Manhattan’s been a police state for years. The cops are pissed there’s anyone left who dares to wear a patch or not get all wobbly-kneed patriotic at the site of their stirring uniforms. I had nothing but bad experiences with the goons while I worked pedicab in that god-forsaken square.

    Isn’t it sad to feel the least safe in the presence of the people who claim to ensure our safety?

  75. jamesgyre says:

    @ ll y blwhrds whnng about how the bikers are “breaking the law”… (nd ys, ‘m gttng d hmnm r wrs hr…)

    let’s not forget that this country was founded on “breaking the law”… that laws are broken every day with much more dire consequences directly related to transportation issues (iraq war) and public awareness issues (the t.v. stations are supposed to broadcast “in the public interest”).

    and let’s not forget good old tommyas jeffreyson:

    “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories. ”

    and…

    “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. ”

    and…

    “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it. ”

    s pls, st dwn, sht p, nd thnk…

    oh, and takuan… word. where is the Bell coverage?

  76. LogrusZed says:

    Ceronomus: BTW, there is no constitutional guarantee for the right to live. It’s part of the Declaration (it’s not even in the Preamble to the Constitution) and as meaningless as “the pursuit of happiness”; actually Long v. Virginia at least cited the pursuit of happiness in a case overturning state laws on interracial marriage so it has more meaning than a guarantee of “life”. There is, however, a right to peaceable assembly, it’s part of the 1st amendment.

    When they take your fist, use the second.

  77. Alexis says:

    #21: The police have forced the cyclists into the kind of behavior you find so offensive. The only way to remain safe during an NYC critical mass is to remain as much as possible as the namesake mass. Because of police behavior, separation, even temporary (like for a red light), usually results in harassment, violence or arrest.

    You could equally well argue that the illegal and dangerous behavior of Critical Mass cyclists has forced the police to interfere with them in the first place. It doesn’t excuse the police doing things that are plain wrong by law and good sense, but if Critical Mass was a lawful form of peaceful protest to start with the situation would be much different. However, it is well-known in most of its incarnations for being unlawful and interfering even with those on whose side it should be (e.g. pedestrians and other cyclists).

    I really don’t know what point Critical Mass thinks it is making because as far as I know all it does is make everyone who ever encounters it frustrated with cyclists, often to the point of burning anger and generalization of this anger to the entire group of cyclists on the road, not just Critical Mass. Is that their goal? If not, they should rethink their methods.

  78. Gainclone says:

    “Isn’t it sad to feel the least safe in the presence of the people who claim to ensure our safety?”

    That’s exactly it.

  79. scottfree says:

    I realise I’m late to weigh in, but re: cops on CM in London, it’s a bit rich to call that a good thing. They are there to nick the first cyclist to step out of line. CM is a complex animal. You’ve got the people who just genuinely enjoy cycling [if not always the majority, then at least the backbone], the couriers, the terminally bored, and, of course, the anarchists, although these latter only show up every six months or so when the ‘man’ tries and fail to make CM illegal. The prevailing attitude, and the argument which makes it a legal assembly, in line with SOCPA, is that CM is not a protest, it isn’t about consciousness raising, it’s simply a bit of fun to have on the way home once a month. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Manhattan CM is a bit cliquish, because that, if nothing else, is the American way. Also, if the cops weren’t there, everyone would probably go home a lot sooner.

    In the US, speech is not protected if it advocates breaking the law, but it is protected if a reasonable man could interpret the speech or act in a way so as to not advocate breaking the law. So CM should be protected since it can be interpreted as simply an unpolitical gathering.

    I was on the CM in London a few years ago after SOCPA was first introduced and a few thousand people showed up, and I have to say, it was amazing. Cops had threatened to arrest anyone who turned out, except they hadn’t counted on that many people; plus there only were about a dozen bicyclist cops at the time [there's more now. Cheers, green Ken]. We used the fountain in front of Buckingham Palace as an impromptu stunt course. And people driving were generally cheering it on. Apart from cab drivers, but cab drivers are evil.

    Finally, to shock and awe the traffic obedient amonst us:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=HLzGj10fg2ge

    The occasional London courier race. Universally hated, this video almost makes them seem cool.

  80. Daemon says:

    I am not picturing packs of exactly 49 people protesters operating at carefully selected intersections thoughout the city.

    Actually, though, I’m curious… what exactly is the legality of performing a citizen’s arrest on a police officer that is caught breaking the law?

  81. DMcK says:

    Critical Mass are notoriously disingenuous about their motives, for example their whole “we’re not aggressive provocateurs, we simply had NO IDEA our little ride just so happened, by some extraordinary coincidence, to fall exactly on the first day of the Republican National Convention” schtick, a ludicrous notion proferred by one of their organizers during a radio interview I heard some time ago. They maintained cordial relations with the NYPD right up until then (even though they were always a goddamn nuisance), but the RNC ride was the last straw as far as the cops were concerned (taxed to their limit with security issues as they were), and the two parties have been locking horns in what can only be described as one of the all-time dumbest public pissing contests ever since.

    For what it’s worth, I know a few people in this city who bike competitively and/or for a living, and trust me, they have no love for the Critical Massholes whatsoever; they give urban biking a pretty lousy image. When pressed on their message or purpose they just turn on the disingenuousness; in reality, they fly in the face of public order simply for the egotistical fuck of it.

  82. Al Billings says:

    When was the last time the presence of a group of cops made a group of citizens feel safe?

  83. LogrusZed says:

    Alexis I really don’t know what point Critical Mass thinks it is making because as far as I know all it does is make everyone who ever encounters it frustrated with cyclists, often to the point of burning anger and generalization of this anger to the entire group of cyclists on the road, not just Critical Mass. Is that their goal? If not, they should rethink their methods.

    Nearly every exercise of peaceable assembly was met with similar comments at the time they occurred. “Why do those uppity coons need to make such a fuss?”, etc.

    And the original point was to demonstrate how fucked up it is to try and bike in the city, obviously that sentiment is still valid in NY.

    Possibly the largest and most important aspect is to demonstrate the power of people coming together and to shake up those who would prevent this from happening. In fact the more such a gathering is repressed the more important it becomes to demonstrate that it cannot be repressed.

    You’re better off asking why people still go to church if you’re going to question gatherings which seem to yield no tangible results.

  84. ripley says:

    I’d like to hold them accountable, but considering a bunch of them just got off scot free for shooting to death an unarmed guy on his wedding day (with pauses to reload).. I’m not so optimistic about the cyclists. Then again, are the cyclists mostly white? If so maybe there’s a chance the media will make a big deal of it.

  85. Patrick Austin says:

    Only those who have gone on critical mass rides can understand the complete sense of invincibility that cyclists feel when they can shut down a city street and piss off motorists and ride circles around the cops. The riders become raving lunatics.

    I’m pretty sure that all involved were happy to be martyrs for cycling. That’s the point. If they didn’t get arrested from time to time, people wouldn’t even be aware that CM exists. The cops here where I live _completely_ ignore CM and guess what? It gets no press and the rides are boring. :)

    The cops are totally in the wrong here, for turning a stupid annoyance into a civil rights showdown…however, it’s hardly a sign of a new police state emerging. This sort of stuff has gone on for a few hundred years.

  86. jamesgyre says:

    @ 51 dmck

    “in reality, they fly in the face of public order simply for the egotistical fuck of it. ”

    no doubt there are those that do… but the gas-guzzling anti-massholes who think they have some great right to accelerate in between red lights belching carbon with there “support the troops” magnet are a BIGGER problem.

    public “order” isn’t orderly.

    it’s a fucking mess.

    and also, the main idea of critical mass is to get city planning to account for bikers with bike lanes, bikeracks on buses and the like and to raise consciousness about the issues.

    IT’S SUPPOSED TO DISRUPT YOUR COZY LITTLE ROUTINE> think of the “inconvenience” a child with their arms and legs blown off feels in iraq. and all these tech-obsessed blowhards (there i go again) spouting about how “annoying” or “juvenile” or “illegal” they are.

    fucking tools for empire.

  87. foobar says:

    No, there’s not a constitutional right to drive, nor is there a constitutional right to bicycle, or to be on the road at all for that matter.

    This isn’t a free speech issue. If Critical Mass wants to hold a protest, fine, but not once a month for a decade.

  88. Otter says:

    I continue to be astonished at the number of people who don’t get the obvious point of Critical Mass:
    EVERY DAY MOST CARS BREAK THE LAW, endangering law-abiding cyclists in the process. They run red lights, refuse to yield the right of way to cyclists (and in my case they flee the scene after hitting me), park in bike lanes and on sidewalks, double-park, etc.
    12 TIMES A YEAR, in a handful of cities, a group of bicyclists demonstrates what would happen if cyclists did the same thing. If people don’t like it, they should change their behavior on the other days of the month. There’s no reason to stop the demonstrations until things change.
    The real question should be: Why doesn’t the NYPD take the same approach with the massive mob of lawbreakers careening around the streets in cars the other days of the month?

    As for DMCK @51, Critical Mass had been happening for years on the same day. The RNC scheduled their gathering in willful ignorance of that. There is nothing disingenuous about pointing that out.

  89. Takuan says:

    “The gang with control of the streets” Just the reality.

    Remember, they only see three categories and you are in one of them: Fellow cops (trust most, but not absolutely) Cattle (you,if you’re lucky) Scum (kill at will). Cop/Cattle/Scum. Don’t forget that.

  90. coldspell says:

    If Critical Mass really wanted to demonstrate the problems with cars, they should parade their cars around town (slowly) instead of their bikes.

  91. jonathan_v says:

    The manhattan & brooklyn critical mass riders are a bunch of self-righteous arrogant assholes. you can quote me on that.

    This isn’t about a right to a simple fun ‘bike ride’ with dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people. This is about the use of ‘critical mass’ and traffic blocking techniques for the riders to ignore all traffic regulations – lights, stopsigns, pedestrians in a crosswalk…

    While the participants love to talk about how this embraces alternative transportation, they seem to ALWAYS forget that this is only about embracing their group’s transportation. Pedestrians and other bicyclists trying to cross the intersections have to wait… and wait… and wait… for their parade to pass.

    In the first 10 seconds of the video, the videographer claims “Sgt. Horohoe is physically interacting with bicyclists on roadway, causing unsafe conditions for traffic” as he tries to grab the bicyclist.

    What the video FAILS to mention is that all those bicyclists were actually running red lights, stopping the cross-traffic ( which is both dangerous and stupid ), and keeping pedestrians from crossing.

    The first clue is the group of people just standing on the corner. New Yorkers don’t do that.

    That was a joke (though true)… In all seriousness, note the crossing signal at 15s in – the red is facing the direction the cyclists are coming from; the white is facing the cross traffic (the cars that are stopping, the pedestrians that are queueing up, unable to pass)

    So technically, the video should have read “Sgt. Horohoe is physically interacting with bicyclists on roadway, trying to stop the cyclists who are causing unsafe conditions for pedestrians and vehicles with the right of way, by ignoring traffic signals.”

    I’m 100% for Critical Mass needing to have a parade permit for this type of ‘bicycle riding’ – it inconveniences everyone outside of their group, and creates really dangerous situations. Getting 1000 people together and saying “your laws don’t apply to us” isn’t free speech, assembly or a protest – its pure unadulterated egotism and arrogance.

    Signed,
    the liberal New Yorker who walks, rides a bike, and takes public transportation everywhere, doesn’t own a car and never takes cabs — and never ever NEVER claims his right to protest or assemble (both of which he exercises regularly) is more important than obeying basic traffic laws or simply being considerate to others.

  92. Ceronomus says:

    In Las Vegas, pedestrians and bicycles have the right of way so long as they don’t endanger motorists (ie suddenly dashing out into the street to run through traffic). So, in the state of Nevada if you are pulling through a green light and a bunch of cyclists come the other way and you hit them? They are at fault.

    Simply put, the rules of the road apply to everyone, motorists and cyclists alike. Cyclist groups like this only add to the problem when enforcement of traffic laws is already a problem. Gee, make things worse and think you’ll be hailed as a hero? I think not.

    I agree that our roads need to be safer for cyclists, heck, I agree that we need more bicycles and less cars on the road. HOWEVER, this is not a way to win sympathy for your cause. It is a good way to get people pissed off and ignore your message though.

    If CM wants to carry through with this? Do what everyone else has to do and get a parade permit. Free assembly is one thing, however I’m pretty sure that the Constitution also doesn’t promise the right to play in traffic and endanger others.

    These people are idiots and should be arrested. They shouldn’t be BEATEN or ABUSED, they should just be dragged off their bikes and ticketed.

    These guys KNEW the police where there to stop them and ignored a lawful order. In New York they are lucky not to have been shot 40-50 times.

  93. Vidiot says:

    Don’t people realize that EVERYTHING CHANGED on 9/11?

    I mean, Mohammed Atta & Co. didn’t quite ride bicycles into the Twin Towers, carrying cameras all the while…but they certainly might have.

  94. doggo says:

    And now for something completely different…

    While I certainly don’t condone the unlawful actions of the NYPD, I think a bit of moderation (not you Xeni) is called for. What I’m talking about is the invective aimed at the police… and the CMers too.

    I’m not particularly pro-police, nor do I excuse their gross errors when they make them, but I remind you all that the police have a very difficult job. I mean seriously difficult. Think about it.

    This is the occupation which has the highest suicide rate. These are people who are surrounded day in, and day out, by the society’s most evil, stupid, and brutal people. They’re pretty much separated from the rest of “civilian” society, so they rarely spend time with non-police people. They’re essentially living “at war” all the time.

    Calling them pigs, or crying oink, oink, is childish and stupid.

    Believe me, I grew up in Chicago. In the city. In the 70s. I’ve been harassed many times by the cops. But the one time, the one time you need them the most, you will be very happy to see them. Warts and all. Having been there, I can tell you it’s the truth.

    So, yes, we should document when cops do bad things (you’re allowed to, don’t let ‘em tell you you aren’t), and call ‘em on it. But calling ‘em names, is dumb.

    Critical Mass needs to grow up and start talking to the police, and the mayor’s office, and the media. They need to quit inciting, and start making positive change. And if they can’t manage to get their message out without getting themselves arrested, then they need to get into another hobby, ’cause it doesn’t help their cause.

  95. willismonroe says:

    This is really quite disturbing. I was born in Manhattan and it makes me ashamed to be a former New Yorker.

    Here in London (I’ve since emigrated) critical mass is going strong. However unlike New York we have complete police support. Every month we get about 20-30 bike police who ride with us and help stop cars and argue with black cabs. In some ways they’re coming along too because they ride the same streets as us. They even bring an ambulance bike for falls and the like.

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