From today's Emory Wheel (page 3)
Bike-Riding Protester Faces Charges
Michelle Ye Hee Lee
A College junior will go to court on Feb. 19 to face charges of disorderly conduct, and if convicted, could serve maximum prison time of 12 months, pay a $1,000 fine or both.
College junior Brian Goldner was arrested on Nov. 24 in downtown Atlanta for interfering with vehicle and pedestrian traffic and obstructing justice while participating in a Critical Mass Ride, according to the Fulton County police report.
Critical Mass is an international movement to promote bicycle use and reduce the impact of cars on the environment. Members ride their bicycles around the city on the last Friday of every month to celebrate their "vision of a preferable alternative mode of transportation in the city of Atlanta," the Atlanta chapter's website reads.
Goldner said he witnessed an Atlanta Police Department Zone 2 precinct officer handcuffing one of the 300 participants present on Nov. 24. Goldner said he stopped to ask the officer why the other man was being arrested.
"He said [the other biker] was blocking traffic. And that's when I said, 'I think you're mistaken, officer, I don't think he should be arrested because he is traffic,'" he said. "That's something we've always said about Critical Mass in the beginning, that we are traffic. [Bicycles are] considered a moving vehicle in Georgia."
Goldner said that according to his public defender, there will not be a jury present at the trial because the crimes are city ordinances. Not being entitled to a trial by jury is upsetting, Goldner said.
"I could lose a year of my life, be forced to drop out of college and forced not to go to med school," he said. "I don't know what I'd do with my life."
The officer was unavailable for comment, but according to his incident report, Goldner stopped 25 feet ahead of him.
"I stated loudly for him to come to my location and he shook his head no," the report read. "At this time I started walking toward him and he attempted to flee me on his bicycle."
The officer pursued Goldner on foot, commanding him to stop, the report said, and finally tackled him on Peachtree Road. The officer broke the front wheel of Goldner's bicycle after tackling him, Goldner said.
"By that time, the wheel was in the shape of a taco shell," said College senior Brad Nowack, who was also with Goldner. "Brian was stunned because he really hadn't done anything wrong."
Goldner said he took off "because it was an illegal arrest."
"If I saw that it was a legal arrest I would've stayed but I thought he was going to harass me," Goldner said.
Goldner and the other bicycle rider were taken to the Fulton County Jail. Goldner was bailed out for $1,300 and released early the next day.
Goldner went to court with his public defender on Jan. 31, hoping to qualify for a Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program, which would have enabled him to take a class or perform community service and potentially have the charges dismissed.
According to the Atlanta Municipal Court city solicitor's office website, the city solicitor typically approves a program when "participants are charged with minor criminal offenses, do not have prior convictions, do not have any cases pending, and have not already gone through a diversion program."
Goldner said his public defender thought Goldner was a prime candidate for the intervention program.
"I'm an aspiring student," said Goldner, who has a 3.8 grade point average and works in a lab at Yerkes National Primate Research Center.
But for reasons neither Goldner or his attorney could explain, the city solicitor did not approve the PTI. The city solicitor's office did not respond to the request for comment.