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National Lawyers Guild Article on Critical Mass

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National Lawyers Guild Article on Critical Mass

Old 07-12-07, 06:15 PM
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National Lawyers Guild Article on Critical Mass

CM in the National Lawyer's Guild Newsletter

The Politics of Pedal Power
by Mel Campagna

On the last Friday of the month, in cities across the globe, bicyclists take to the streets en masse, to slow down traffic and demonstrate their collective power. From cars and sidewalks, many of us have seen the "massers" go by, issuing an invitation for cars to more equitably share the road.

Critical Mass has a strong history and tradition in the Bay Area. The first official "Critical Mass" happened here in San Francisco in 1992. While the core goals of drawing attention to issues of bicycle safety and challenging the isolationist mentality of cars have remained over the years, issues of global warming and the war in Iraq have become motivations for a new generation of riders. But those values and the rights of cyclists have been under attack with the recent crackdown on Critical Mass by law enforcement.

On February 2, 2007, Oakland Critical Mass, which to differentiate itself from S.F., converges the first Friday of the month at Frank Ogawa Plaza, was interrupted by the Oakland Police Department using helicopters and squad cars. Police detained and cited over twenty riders; most were charged with running a red light and one person was given a sound violation. There have been several altercations between motorists and Critical Mass riders in both San Francisco and Oakland. In recent months, mainstream media outlets, most notably the S.F. Chronicle, blamed incidents on reckless anarchistic bike riders.

However, Guild member, Jason Meggs, of the Bicycle Civil Liberties Union, which is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this month, believes that Critical Mass should be respected and supported by government and police officials. "Any city that wants to make good on its commitment to safer streets, healthier communities, protecting the environment and evading global climate change should celebrate, embrace and protect Critical Mass where it is so fortunate to have them appear. Bicyclists have the right to the road and, of course, the right to demonstrate, but law enforcement is not always prepared for this inversion of the status quo when the streets are filled with bikes rather than cars for a change. Unfortunately, in this country, the response is almost always one of repression."

Bicycle enthusiast and local Guild attorney, John Viola, believes that the monthly rides are of critical importance, which is why he agreed to take the cases pro bono on behalf of the Demonstrations Committee. In an email communiqué informing the arrestees of their victory on the case, Viola took time to personally thank the riders:

"Thank you for biking and working against car culture. Your cases were dismissed largely because of administrative failure of the Oakland Police Department to respond to your rights to see evidence. However, we were also prepared to defend you based on the political necessity and importance of actions like Critical Mass. I believe that Critical Mass is one of many essential steps for opposing war and empire and toward breaking the modern addiction to fossil fuels."

Labor attorney Francisco Ugarte, who has recently become active in mass defense and joined John as co-counsel, said: "Strengthening the Guild and its capacity to support social justice movements is important, I believe, for all of us. The Police's infatuation with Critical Mass defies reason and these arrests were entirely unjustified. I was happy I could be a part of the Guild's defense project here."

Both attorneys are conscientious about empowering their clients to make informed decisions about the best way to proceed with their cases. "It was unnecessary to go into Court, but the obvious fact is that American dependence on oil (and power) is at the heart of the war and occupation in Iraq and continued military expansion throughout the Middle East," Viola told the Guild. "Although the grotesque costs of these (military) actions to human life, to the world and to history are barely considered news anymore, it is a daily reality and a price paid on the other side of the globe. Down one road is the direction of war and death and empire, down the other is a Critical Mass of folks heading for transportation and energy alternatives, physical and environmental health. Thanks to them for continuing to show us all the right way to go. Keep riding."
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Old 07-12-07, 07:00 PM
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Meh.
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Old 07-12-07, 07:26 PM
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Get a parade permit, or don't cork intersections and break traffic laws.
If CM did either, I'd be a fervent supporter.
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Old 07-12-07, 07:53 PM
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Double Meh.
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Old 07-12-07, 07:57 PM
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We're supposed to believe that this:
Originally Posted by Bikepacker67
cork intersections and break traffic laws.
leads to this:
Originally Posted by randya
safer streets, healthier communities, protecting the environment and evading global climate change
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Old 07-12-07, 08:40 PM
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Exactly. To me, there's a bit of a logical disconnect between wanting to raise awareness of cyclists' rights to the road, by abusing those same rights. And strategically speaking, you know what they say about catching more flies with honey...

What say we try to start an alternative to CM where we mass ride, but all legally. Call it, say, Reasonable Mass. I'm only half kidding... ;-)
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Old 07-12-07, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Exactly. To me, there's a bit of a logical disconnect between wanting to raise awareness of cyclists' rights to the road, by abusing those same rights. And strategically speaking, you know what they say about catching more flies with honey...

What say we try to start an alternative to CM where we mass ride, but all legally. Call it, say, Reasonable Mass. I'm only half kidding... ;-)
I would ride a Reasonable Mass in a heartbeat! (They started one in San Francisco-- where else?-- called Critical Manners.).
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Old 07-12-07, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Blue Order
We're supposed to believe that this:

Originally Posted by Bikepacker67
cork intersections and break traffic laws.
leads to this:

Originally Posted by randya
safer streets, healthier communities, protecting the environment and evading global climate change
[rant]You forgot about the swearing, spitting and vandalism but, yeah, way to prejudice people's view of CM riders and cyclists in one. Nice ideal but lost somewhere in between various agendas of the tree huggers, lunatic left and liberal do-gooders.[/rant]
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Old 07-12-07, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by markhr
[rant]You forgot about the swearing, spitting and vandalism but, yeah, way to prejudice people's view of CM riders and cyclists in one. Nice ideal but lost somewhere in between various agendas of the tree huggers, lunatic left and liberal do-gooders.[/rant]
Well, I'm a tree hugger, lunatic left, liberal do-gooder, but I'm not down with any of the swearing, spitting, vandalism, etc.

Critical Manners, that's what I support.
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Old 07-12-07, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Blue Order
Well, I'm a tree hugger, lunatic left, liberal do-gooder, but I'm not down with any of the swearing, spitting, vandalism, etc.

Critical Manners, that's what I support.
good to know and, as with any generalisation, it's bound to come back to bite me in the a$$
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Old 07-12-07, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by markhr
good to know and, as with any generalisation, it's bound to come back to bite me in the a$$
Maybe I'm not lunatic left.
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Old 07-12-07, 09:45 PM
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Okay, Critical Manners is an even better name than Reasonable Mass. So when are the rides? Let's organize!

markhr, what's FFS mean?
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Old 07-12-07, 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Okay, Critical Manners is an even better name than Reasonable Mass. So when are the rides? Let's organize!
I agree, it's time to get these started.

markhr, what's FFS mean?
Nothing that could be repeated by well-mannered folk.
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Old 07-12-07, 09:49 PM
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For Fred's sake?
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Old 07-12-07, 09:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian
For Fred's sake?
I think I've got it.

I nominate markhr's sig as the Critical Manners motto!
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Old 07-12-07, 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by markhr
good to know and, as with any generalisation, it's bound to come back to bite me in the a$$
By the way, ass is not on the censor list. So those dollar signs make you look like an ass, since you're basically breaking the rules to post something that's not against the rules.
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Old 07-13-07, 01:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Brian
By the way, ass is not on the censor list. So those dollar signs make you look like an ass, since you're basically breaking the rules to post something that's not against the rules.
my bad and noted - thanks
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Old 07-13-07, 01:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Someone Who Doesn't Get It
Thank you for biking and working against car culture
He showed his colors right there. Good luck getting any sympathy from those you obviously despise.
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Old 07-13-07, 09:31 AM
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breaking a few traffic laws?

drivers do it all the time.

not saying it's 'legal'- anyone familiar with the term 'civil disobedience'?

but critical mass is a demonstration, first and foremost.
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Old 07-13-07, 09:43 AM
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Just one question,,

was interrupted by the Oakland Police Department using helicopters
Anyone know what it costs per hour to operate a police helicopter? No really, does anyone know?

This is amazing. I'm not a supporter of CM, for all the aforementioned reasons. But, I suppose the use of helicopters against bicyclists is next on the NYPD's "to do list".
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Old 07-13-07, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Exactly. To me, there's a bit of a logical disconnect between wanting to raise awareness of cyclists' rights to the road, by abusing those same rights. And strategically speaking, you know what they say about catching more flies with honey...

What say we try to start an alternative to CM where we mass ride, but all legally. Call it, say, Reasonable Mass. I'm only half kidding... ;-)
I think it's great, I'd do it.

What I don't get about CM is the whining. OK, so you get a bunch of people together who intentionally antagonize motorists, intentionally block intersections, violate traffic lights, etc - THEN whine because the cops shut them down? Duh, no kidding. OF COURSE people get pissed. Wasn't that the goal?
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Old 07-13-07, 10:17 AM
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what I don't get is why no-one's mentioned how much MORE disruption cyclists (say 40 or 50 on a friday evening) would cause if they:
1. cycled 2 abreast in the slow lane at 15kph/10mph
2. leave gaps no larger than a wheel's diameter between you and the cyclists in front of you.
3. stopped for everything - crossings, lights, stop signs
4. occasionally sent a brick of 4 cyclists in the fast(er) lane from the back of the queue to the front not forgetting hand signals, etc.

with a minimum 40 or 50 cyclists that's >100m of road and because you're doing nothing illegal there's diddly ***** they can do about it.

Now that's civil obediance and it get's in the motorist's face (if that's what you want)
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Old 07-13-07, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by markhr
what I don't get is why no-one's mentioned how much MORE disruption cyclists (say 40 or 50 on a friday evening) would cause if they:
1. cycled 2 abreast in the slow lane at 15kph/10mph
2. leave gaps no larger than a wheel's diameter between you and the cyclists in front of you.
3. stopped for everything - crossings, lights, stop signs
4. occasionally sent a brick of 4 cyclists in the fast(er) lane from the back of the queue to the front not forgetting hand signals, etc.

with a minimum 40 or 50 cyclists that's >100m of road and because you're doing nothing illegal there's diddly ***** they can do about it.

Now that's civil obediance and it get's in the motorist's face (if that's what you want)
I like your idea. Even better yet, just commute to school, work, and errands or ride around for the fun of it but do it in a calm, sane and orderly manner. I have been doing this for forty years, long before there was CM or before bicycling started to regain popularity here. I have never been run over and have had very few unpleasant confrontations.

I have not been a strident opponent of CM, and have actually defended it in some of the threads on BF, especially the threads that paint it as a mass orgy of vandalism and destruction. Until recently I lived in the downtown area of Seattle and the CM went by my living room window every month, and I never saw any sign of the lawless rioting that supposedly occurs. In May, however, the ride went on to a limited access highway (State route 99) that runs through town. Although it is not an interstate, it is basically a raised freeway with on/off ramps, no shoulders and a speed limit of 55. Of course, this caused instant chaos, a ten mile traffic backup, and a confrontation with the Seattle Police Department. Apparently an enraged motorist threatened to drive into some of the CMers, and one of the CMers pulled out a knife and threatened the motorist. After hearing about this my ambivalence toward Critical Mass has turned into opposition.
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Old 07-13-07, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by trackhub
Just one question,,



Anyone know what it costs per hour to operate a police helicopter? No really, does anyone know?

This is amazing. I'm not a supporter of CM, for all the aforementioned reasons. But, I suppose the use of helicopters against bicyclists is next on the NYPD's "to do list".
There is at least one NYPD helicopter above NYC 24/7... so don't think one hasn't already been used to monitor CM at some point. It doesn't really seem like that big of a deal to me, you know, in comparison to the hundreds of officers that they take off the street in order to man the event.
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Old 07-13-07, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by trackhub
Just one question,,



Anyone know what it costs per hour to operate a police helicopter? No really, does anyone know?

This is amazing. I'm not a supporter of CM, for all the aforementioned reasons. But, I suppose the use of helicopters against bicyclists is next on the NYPD's "to do list".
Actually, it's been done. To death. In fact in 04, at the pre-RNC CM, the helicops were so busy protecting our freedoms that they forgot it wasn't cool to use their super expensive IR equipment to peep on frolicking rooftop lovers on a private terrace:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/22/ny...953fba&ei=5070

Police Video Caught a Couple's Intimate Moment on a Manhattan Rooftop

By JIM DWYER
A man and woman who shared an intimate moment on a secluded, dark rooftop one August night last year have learned that they were secretly watched, an intrusion made possible by increased police surveillance of protest rallies and other events and also by advanced technology intended to fight terrorists.

That night, police officers tracked bicycle riders moving through the streets of the Lower East Side from a custom-built, $9.8 million helicopter equipped with optical equipment able to display a license plate 1,000 feet away.

With the night vision of the helicopter's camera, and permission to make videotapes, an officer also recorded nearly four minutes of the couple on the terrace of a Second Avenue penthouse.

"When you watch the tape, it makes you feel kind of ill," said Jeffrey Rosner, 51, one of the two people. "I had no idea they were filming me - who would ever have an idea like that?"

The tape, broadcast earlier this year by WCBS-TV news, was made on Aug. 27, 2004, just before the Republican National Convention. That night, several thousand bicycle riders arrived for a group ride that did not have a permit.

The helicopter followed the riders but turned the camera on the couple. High above Second Avenue, they seemed to be shielded from view by a wall of shrubs and the nearly total darkness. The police camera, however, included special thermal-imaging equipment that yielded distinct, if ghostly, images.

Mr. Rosner, a music business executive who owns the penthouse, said he remembered a police helicopter hovering overhead, which he assumed was only monitoring the throng of bicycle riders below.

"I'm very happy about cameras in public spaces," Mr. Rosner said. "If you're in a public space doing something inappropriate, I'm all for that. But if I'm in my house and you're using multimillion-dollar equipment to film me, not at all."

Eileen Clancy, a forensic video analyst, observed that the scene was disclosed only because the same tape included images from the mass bicycle ride and had to be turned over for the trial of a rider.

Mr. Rosner has filed a complaint with the Police Department through his lawyer.

Asked about the incident, Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the department, said: "Aviation routinely checks and sometimes videotapes rooftop activity when someone's in a position to throw projectiles at officers below. In this instance, the officer was instructed afterward to terminate taping once it was determined a threat did not exist."

Mr. Rosner said the woman on the roof with him did not want to be identified or discuss the events. He said he was relieved the tape did not include even more personal moments.

"I am usually in favor of surveillance," Mr. Rosner said. The issue, he said, is "more the sensibility that the police think it's O.K. that they do that - it's about their own professionalism."
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