Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Twin Cities Braces for the RNC of 2008

You must read this article by Peter Smith in the Huffington Post where he describes what happened at the August 31 critical mass in Minneapolis, MN.

(Minnesota happens to be the state where the Benepe's progressed to, down from Canada, back a couple of generations, before Grandpa Bob Benepe hoofed it over to Queen Anne, Maryland and Grammercy Park, NYC.)

Smith does a terrific job scaring the hell out of us New Yorkers who saw it all happen in 2004 when we hosted "those people", who turned our city into a hell of over-reactive police and divisiveness--a state of affairs that under ordinary conditions were quite different.

Prior to the RNC coming to the city in 2004, Critical Mass in the city was a casual affair, with the Big Blues accompanying us on rides through the streets, and even good-naturedly holding up car traffic so we could ride through unencumbered. Then it was just part of the job, some sweet overtime that allowed them to get the wind in their hair on police scooters.

Then came the glare of those radical rightists with their disapproving inferences, and suddenly it was 'clamp down' time! Not only did they make war in Iraq, but they made war on our own darn streets!

We haven't been the same since, and it looks like Minneapolis is about to face a similar transformation. We progressed from massive arrests in September 2004, to a monthly face off between police and cyclists on the last day of every month, with bitter feelings in both directions, lawsuits, and the introduction of an ante-upping parade law by the NYPD, engendered by thinly disguised "terrorism" readiness.

Smith describes Minneapolis' Critical Mass group as a little past their prime with nothing but a Yahoo message board and some sidewalk stencil action. But the monthly ride went seriously wrong at one point, and 48 officers from 6 different law enforcement agencies descended on the group and pepper-sprayed and arrested 19 people, including 16-year-old Annie. She said the police told her to "get moving" which she did, but got arrested anyway, and watched as the police tried to find something to charge her with--by her own account, on Google. Not able to find anything they left a blank space next to Probable Cause.

In the end, her Probable Cause never got filled in, and her case could be dropped, but the incident "radicalized" her she said., and will probably skip school for the next "mass".

And judging by Annie's firm determination, I have a feeling her city is in for more of a fight than New York was.


David said...

What are the police doing in this country? They seem to spend an inordinate amount of time hassling essentially law-biding motorists and cyclists alike, while ignoring criminals like thieves. Someone broke into my car and the cop gave me a lecture about not keeping valuables in my car. I'm sure he was the last person to ever set eyes on my report and no effort was made to recover my stuff or catch the person. However, better be careful not to roll a stop on your bike in front of the police, or you'll get a ticket. I guess its just much easier to sit in your patrol car and harass other users of the road than actually investigate and solve a crime...

Jen Benepe said...

very well said. I am not sure what will help change police attitudes towards cyclists but I think it would help if each and every one of us addresses wrongs that are perpetrated on us by taking the time to write to police chiefs, outlining the incident and quoting the appropriate law that their officers need to be aware of.
Education is the best philosophy, even if it is not our jobs. Patience and repeated application of education is necessary. That combined with knowledge, and occasionally a well constructed lawsuit, should eventually do the trick.
In the meantime, the more cops on bikes we have the better off we will be, because they tend to be a lot of aware of the dangers, obstacles, and problems we face.