Saturday, December 31, 2005

Critical Mass...same ol same.

Hey it's December, its cold out, its the holidays...I'm sure the cops won't be wasting time on another critical mass bike ride...besides all that bad press about infilitrating protest groups...WRONG!

Here is an eye-witness account of last nights ride:

A NYPD helicopter circled over Union Sqareharrasing gathering cyclists with it's glaring searchlight while a large group of scooter cops hovered on the edge of meeting area in the north end of the park. A nice size group of around 100 riders/skater left around 7:30pm heading uptown on Park avenue. They were followed by 20 scooter cops and a number of other vehicles of opression up to 22nd street where the ride suddenly turned east upon hearing that another small army of cops were rolling in across 23rd st. from the west. The cops on 23rd st. picked up speed and raced to the corner of Lexington and 22nd st. in order to cut off the mass from the front with the 20 scooters from Union Square sealing off the back. Most of the riders managed to escape in various directions. Around 14 were arested.

Eventually arround 50 riders managed to reunite in the East Village and rode around downtown - some this group eventually leading some of the cops through a briskly paced cat-and-mouse chase through Soho. A separate group of 3 riders were followed by an ridiculously large armada of cops (paddy wagons, suvs, squad cars, helicopter etc) reaching a sort of standoff at 1st ave and 7th st. The 3 riders (and apparently the pigs) were looking to hook up with the larger group that had passed earlier. The riders stopped to wait things out and the cops ended up shutting down most of the avenue for some reason.

There was some hanging with snacks ect. after the end of the mass.

F--k you to the NYPD, the Mayor and whoever else is responsible for the huge wase of resources and viloation of rights in this year and a half dumping on NYC's finest.

Thanks for the info Rodger...sorry it was such a drag.

Meanwhile this article in the NYTimes...activists fight back:

Group Assails Monitoring of Political Events by Police

Published: December 31, 2005
A group of civil rights lawyers has charged that covert police surveillance at political demonstrations violates a federal court order that limits the secret monitoring of lawful public gatherings.

In a letter sent yesterday to the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly , and the city's corporation counsel, Michael Cardozo, the lawyers demanded an end to what they say is illegal surveillance. If the city does not halt the practice, the lawyers wrote that they would seek to have the city held in contempt of court for not abiding by the settlement of a 1971 class-action lawsuit.

City officials declined to comment yesterday, after the letter, known as a notice to cure, was made public.

The lawyers cited a Dec. 22 article in The New York Times, which reported that officers in disguises attended at least seven events in the past 16 months, including antiwar protests, demonstrations during the 2004 Republican National Convention, and bicycle rallies known as Critical Mass held the last Friday of the month.

At last night's rally, a number of riders said they were not surprised about the surveillance. "It's obvious that there's undercover," said Adam Moore, 24, a photographer who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. "They don't look like anyone who would normally ride bikes. They're easy to spot."

During Critical Mass, riders move as a group through Manhattan streets to promote bicycling as alternative transportation, and as is common, the police arrested about a dozen bicyclists last night on traffic violations. Of nearly 300 cases prosecuted since September 2004, none have resulted in a conviction, said Gideon Oliver, a lawyer who has represented many of the riders.

The Police Department's chief spokesman has said that disguised officers are permitted under the court order to attend demonstrations to keep order. But Jethro M. Eisenstein, one of the lawyers who filed the class-action lawsuit, said that violated the settlement.

"Putting plainclothes cops into a demonstration is an investigation of political activity," he said.

The disguised police officers can be seen at seven events in videotapes made over the past 16 months. The tapes were collected by Eileen Clancy, a forensic video analyst who is critical of the tactics. She founded I-Witness Video, an archive of footage from public gatherings in New York City.

On one tape, it appeared that a disguised officer - or a person working with the police - influenced the course of a demonstration during the Republican convention. The man, who was on a sidewalk and holding a protest sign, appeared to have been arrested by uniformed officers.

Onlookers objected, police officers in riot gear responded, and others were arrested. A videotape showed that the man whose apparent arrest touched off the confrontation was never handcuffed and appeared to be carrying a two-way radio.

The chief spokesman for the Police Department, Paul J. Browne, has declined to comment on the videotapes, but said that police officers in disguises have attended public gatherings to patrol for unlawful behavior. Although the presence of disguised police officers at such events is limited by the settlement, Mr. Browne said those restrictions did not apply to officers who attend to keep order.

The class-action case, known as Handschu for one of the plaintiffs, was brought on behalf of political activists who claimed that surveillance and infiltration of political organizations in the 1960's subverted their right to free speech. They charged that police spies instigated trouble or polluted their messages. The case was settled in 1985, after the city agreed to broad restrictions on the surveillance of political activities. Many were eased after Sept. 11, 2001.

We'll see what 2006 brings...can't wait.


Blogger Blue-eyed Devil said...

Damn, man, that's rough.

DC's CM is small and unobtrusive enough that this kind of overt intimidation is typically reserved for special occasions (e.g., war protests), and even then it isn't anywhere near that severe. At least not yet. It is a new year, and with most of the country sleeping through the latest revelations about the State's unlawful spying on its own citizens, I don't have high hopes that things are going to get better.

Gonna be an interesting year; may your legs keep you pedaling forever one block ahead of the Man.

10:23 PM  
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