Critcal Mass says goodbye to Smolka
Critical Mass gets 'free ride' in B'klyn
By Justin Rocket Silverman
amNew York Staff Writer
January 25, 2007, 6:34 PM EST
Cyclists who pedal into Union Square for Friday¹s Critical Mass ride will likely be met by a large force of police officers in squad cars and on motor scooters. And If the ride is like others over the last three years, some riders will be arrested and ticketed for taking part in a monthly event the city has deemed illegal and dangerous.
Yet just two weeks ago, a similar group of cyclists gathered outside Prospect Park for the Brooklyn Critical Mass ride. A similar force of police were also on hand. But that is where the similarities end.
"We're not going to go with you guys tonight," a police officer said as the ride got underway on Jan. 12. "Have a good time."
And with that the bikers rode off in a pack, running red lights and blocking traffic in the way Critical Mass rides worldwide do. The way that has resulted in hundreds of arrests in the Manhattan rides.
"The police have a very different attitude in Brooklyn," says Barbara Ross, a volunteer with Time's Up, a bicycle advocacy group. "The police in Brooklyn tell us they are there to support us. They are always joking with us, and telling us to be careful if we do the Manhattan ride."
Indeed, participants in this month's Brooklyn Critical Mass said officers sometimes even ride alongside the cyclists, helping them block traffic and keeping the bikers safe. Tickets and arrests are virtually unheard of in the Brooklyn ride, even though the traffic laws are the same in both boroughs.
"Cyclists in Brooklyn work in cooperation with the police," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne. "We have said many times that if the organizers in Manhattan cooperated with us, for example advised us of the route, we would accommodate the rides by safely closing intersections as they passed."
Cyclists disagree with Browne's assertion, pointing out that since there is never any pre-determined route for the Critical Mass rides, it would be impossible to advise police of the route.
Other cyclists offered another rational for the difference in law enforcement styles between the two rides.
"Manhattan is much more politicized," said the rider, who asked his name be withheld. "There you have the whole legacy of the RNC protests. You also have more traffic. Basically, what it comes down to, is that no one gives a damn what happens in Brooklyn."
Neither the NYPD nor Time¹s Up were able to provide exact figures on the number of those arrested or ticketed during Manhattan Critical Mass rides.
But both noted that the number of arrests has declined significantly in recent months.
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.
Well according to the police, as usual, this is complete and utter bullshit...in regards to the Manhattan's CM. We all know that the only difference between Manhattan CM and Brooklyn is that the police force is run by Chief Smolka who has a hardon for protests and was trying to become a so-called expert on the subject so he could move up in the ranks. Basically he lumped all activities into the same category that anyone on a bike, caring a sign against BUSH or not following the model of shopping on a regular basis was some sort of Iraqi loving, police hatting, car hatting anarchist who should be locked up and have their constitutional rights ripped up in their face. In my opinion Critical Mass was a victim a few big wigs in the police force trying to show-off and their big opportunity was the RNC...thank you Mayor Bloomberg for rolling out the red carpet for a few thousand Republicans who don't live here and locking up all the citizens of your fair city who DO LIVE HERE and pay NYC taxes. I hope it was worth it. Meanwhile a friendly bike ride that goes on in 300 cities around the world on a MONTHLY basis gets attacked and your puppet spokesman...Paul Browne, feeds us more crap about how, oh the Brooklyn Critical Mass follows the rules? Stick to a pre-determined route? There is no pre-determined route. Now they are trying to divide us by borough. Oh all the good bike riders are in Brooklyn. The only reason we started Brooklyn Critical Mass was because we got tired of being clothes-lined off our bikes by your rookie cops and arrested for legally riding our bikes in the streets. Its our BIKE RIDE and you never had a problem with it till Bruce Smolka wanted to look good for his next job...and wait...look at whats going on....
Assistant Chief Bruce Smolka is retiring...What??? Thats right...the guy who likes to beat up on woman, female photographers and legal observers is now going to do security for Revlon. Smolka was in charge of activities from 57th street on down, and by activities I mean protesting. Smolka has a record, for beating up on anyone he feels like. A woman who is already in handcuffs, a photo journalist and recently a legal observer. Why Revlon cosmetics? Because they have a lot of protests against their mistreatment of animals. Check out this video of Smolka's behavior on I witness video's blog
Here is a newsday article about Smolka:
BY ROCCO PARASCANDOLA
Newsday Staff Writer
January 24, 2007
New York Police Department Assistant Chief Bruce Smolka, the Manhattan
commander revered by his officers but scorned by protesters, has filed for
his retirement, Newsday has learned.
Smolka made the announcement last week, surprising police commanders
gathered for a meeting at police headquarters, police sources said. The
32-year veteran will work his last day in less than a month, then go to work
for Ron Perelman, head of Revlon Corp., sources said.
Smolka's retirement comes as his reputation would appear to be set in
stone: Rank-and-file police officers adore him - one told Newsday he'd take
a bullet for him - while civil libertarians and many of those who have taken
part in recent demonstrations say he is short-tempered and overly
"As a civil rights lawyer, I'm not sad to see Smolka retire," said
Manhattan lawyer Jonathan Moore, who's handling several civil claims against
the police department. "His style of policing demonstrations has been to use
more force than necessary against people being arrested, which to me sets
the wrong example for other police officers. "
An inquiry for an interview with Smolka was referred to the NYPD press
office, which declined comment and would not allow Smolka to be interviewed.
Revlon did not return a call for comment.
As commanding officer of Patrol Borough Manhattan South, Smolka has one of
the most important and high-profile assignments in the NYPD.
He has been front and center at all major Manhattan events, from the
demonstrations during the 2004 Republican National Convention to the monthly
Critical Mass rallies that pit bicyclists against police.
His hands on-style - it's not unusual for him to jump into a tussle and
make an arrest - is unusual for someone of his rank, but it has won support
from police officers working the streets.
"He is a very smart man who treats his people with respect and knows how to
take control of a situation," said one detective who has worked for Smolka
and asked that his name not be printed. "He knows what he's doing. "
Smolka emerged as a key figure in the protests during the RNC. More than
1,800 people were arrested.
The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed two lawsuits challenging those
mass arrests, and Smolka is in the middle of giving a deposition regarding
police tactics, according to lawyers involved in the case.
Meanwhile, a separate lawsuit is nearing trial in Manhattan Federal Court,
as Cynthia Greenberg has accused Smolka of repeatedly kicking her in the
head and cursing at her while trying to arrest her during a 2003 Manhattan
rally in which demonstrators protested the U.S. government's immigration
Moore represents Greenberg, as well as Adrienne Wheeler, 28, a graduate
student from Brooklyn who has filed a notice of claim and plans to file a
federal lawsuit. Moore says Greenberg was working as a legal observer at
last February's Critical Mass rally when she was yanked off her bike by
Smolka and issued a summons, which was later dismissed, for driving the
wrong way down a one-way street.
Smolka allegedly stopped Wheeler's progress by grabbing the bike chain
around her waist. A videotape shows part of the confrontation, with Smolka
grabbing the chain as she is getting up.
Copyright (c) 2007, Newsday, Inc.