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Heather K. and I go to a LOT of protests. Bunches of em. Our government has gotten so
drunk with power that there's no shortage of things to protest.
Critical Mass, however, is NOT a protest. Trust me. I know what a protest looks like,
and this is NOT it.
Critical Mass is just a bunch of people that want to ride bikes together. They want to
smile and laugh and have a good time and see our city and be seen on their bikes. There
are at least a couple right wingers, a healthy compliment of left wingers and a whole bunch
of apolitical people. Lots of young people that think that bicycles are a good way to get
around and enjoy the idea of having bikes outnumber the cars one day of the month so that
they feel safe.
But all of that has been lost on everyone. Channel 2 news coverage of the events that
night had a live reporter who inadvertently referred to us as "the protesters... I mean the
bicyclists" and the police and law representitives have steadily referred to us as "protesters"
ever since the event. The newspapers keep calling us a bicycle rights group and quoting
people who are "members" of Critical Mass. Well in case anyone was wondering how they too can
have a membership, all you do is show up on the last friday of the month with your bike and
But since everybody seemed to want bike "protesters" so bad, that's what they ended up
getting. It was two days after the event. I was taking a nice Sunday afternoon ride on
my bike to finally drop off some papers at Rust Belt books. I was riding past Elmwood and
Summer and thinking about what had happened Friday night when I spotted Theresa from the
co-op. She has been in a play at Rust Belt Books lately and she was walking with other
people in the play and they were carying signs so I stopped to see what was up.
Theresa's sign said something like 'Biking does not equal Rioting' with a not equal sign
instead of the words spelled out. First I wondered to myself what percentage of sign
readers were going to know what a not equal sign means. But then I wondered where she was
going. That was the question I chose to ask out loud.
They pointed to the corner of Elmwood and summer and it began to dawn on me that they
were all carying pro-bicycling signs and they were going to demostrate in support of us.
They had not even been in the ride that Friday but they were bicyclists and they had just
spontaneously decided to show their solidarity. That was awesome.
I raced over to the bookstore to drop off my stuff and then raced home to print out a
sign. My sign said "B.P.D. May I please ride my bike? (pretty please)" Then Heather K.
and I had a little disagreement about whether I was being too much of an aggitator and
whether or not the (pretty please) was a bit over the top. I printed it out as is and
then hit three different EMail lists with the fact that an impromptu rally was happening
on the corner where it all went down.
Heather and I biked down to Elmwood to get me a bike helmet from Campus Wheelworks. I
ran into someone from the ride and showed her my sign. I showed my sign to the staff
at the store and they got a kick out of it. It took a while to get a bike helmet because
there were other people in line. So by the time I got back to Elmwood and Summer there
were already people there that I had emailed.
I was shocked. I often EMail people about what's going on but I'd long since given
up on actually having it work. Usually you just email people and say what's going on and
nothing ever comes of it. Something about Critical Mass and the police actions had touched
a nerve and it seemed like everyone wanted to participate.
Being at that Rally was really great. I am used to being at rally after rally where
the passing traffic hates you and they shout mean things at you. Usually there are some
young republican looking college kids that look fit to fight with a group of older ladies
for holding signs and voicing their opinion. Lately the Women In Black silent vigil
flipped off (the middle finger gesture) about once every 10 minutes. There's a kid that
drives by every week to shout "Yay War!". This pro-bike protest was way different and
very refreshing. Sure, just by the law of averages we got the obligatory car full of young
white boys yelling "Go home you hippie homos" but the overwheling majority of the response
was very positive. There was a guy who brought the Critical Mass signature sign "Honk if
you like bikes" and there was all kinds of honking from every direction. Lots of people
stopping to ask 'what's going on?' too. The long row of bicycles along the sidewalk
had piqued their curiosity.
My sign was by no means the most inflamatory. A lot of Critical Mass riders had a lot to
say to the public about the mistreatment they had witnessed or been subject to. A channel 7
news camera showed up and started filming things and filed my sign and my sign made it onto
the news. As he was filming it the cameraman said "I like the (pretty please)". Heh.
That same Sunday Ellie from the IAC asked me if I would come to the Tuesday night IAC
meeting and tell people what happened at the ride. I agreed to do that. I wasn't nervous
about it because usually the same few people show up at IAC meetings and they're all used to
me going on with my opinions anyway. I said I'd give a report on what happened in court
that morning too.
Nothing happened in court that morning. The araignment for the fearsome "bike-criminals"
got pushed back to Friday. In fact I guess they're trial is about to happen now as I write
this. I have to go work my co-op volunteer hours in a few minutes so I can't show up at the
trial today. I'll add the details to this when I get them though.
Anyway the IAC meeting had a whole lot more people than normal show up. I didn't have
to worry about speaking though because there were plenty of people there to speak. There
was a woman named Loretta Renford there who studies police misconduct in Buffalo and who
has a Public Access television show and she's looking for Critical Mass riders to
interview. I'll just pass on exactly what she sent me:
I would like to get in touch with all the bikeers,especially
those that were arrested to come on my public access show and talk
about the issues surrounding the bike ride of last week.
I am also enlisting the witnneses as well as others to participate as
the audience. This way we can educate all concerned about the plight of
Criticle Mass and the Rights of all Bikers.
We also hope to present the facts as to what the facts are.
Please contact me as soon as possible so that I can post time,
date,place of taping.
While I and many others are saddended by your incident, this is another
reason that the struggle for police brutality, racism, discrimination,
and other issues continues.
Please make sure that all injured, arrested in this melee, File a
complaint with the Commission on Citizen's Reights and Community Relations,
Room 1701 City Hall, 851-8000.
Good luck tomorrow in Court. See you there. Judge Carney, City Court 50
Delaware @9:30 AM
Loretta L. Renford, CCAPA
She also suggested that anyone involved might wish to file a complaint
with the B.P.D. Here is the procedure from the B.P.D. website:
UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS
A complaint may be filed with the Department in the following ways:
Go to any Police Dept. building & request to speak with a Supervisor
Call the Professional Standards Division at (716)851-4557
Write a letter to the Commissioner of Police at Police Headquarters, 74 Franklin St., Buffalo, NY 14202
If you wish, you may bring a lawyer, family member or a friend with you when the complaint is filed. Filing a citizen complaint does not prevent you from filing a claim against the city or complaints with other government authorities.
Police Department personnel will meet with you at a location YOU feel comfortable in. Information that you have that would assist in the inquiry would include:
Date, time, and location of the incident
Names, badge numbers, or car numbers of the members involved
Names, Addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses
Also Heron was there and he made a lot of great points.
So the next day it was Squeeky Wheel's turn to show their support. They had a film
screening of the Critial Mass video that shows the history of the ride in San Fransisco.
They had a documentary that someone did on the first Critical Mass in Buffalo also. Then they
had some VCR footage of the news coverage where the police representatives spoke about
what a menace we were and how the police had acted absolutely appropriately. Well let me just
say that I saw a police officer shove Maryanne Coyle to the ground with my own eyes. I am not
used to seeing a full grown man, especially one in uniform, shove an unsuspecting woman in
that manner and it was BY NO MEANS appropriate. I saw the police whacking people with sticks
who were not fighting back and THAT WAS NOT APPROPRIATE. I didn't get to witness the police
attacking Dr. Niman but by all accounts from those who did that was completely inappropriate.
They way they manhandled these young kids as they cuffed them was also inappropriate. Not to
mention that the whole thing was just completely unnecessary since we weren't harming anyone
by riding our bikes.
Related Links Gallore:
Photo Gallery 1
Photo Gallery 2
Photo Gallery 3
Buffalo Report Coverage (I highly recommend this)
Buffalo Indimedia Coverage
Buffalo Critical Mass Yahoo Group
Buffalo News Coverage
If you were a witness to these events, please make certain that Mark Mahoney and the
legal team have your witness statement: Mark Mahoney