It was May Day of 1999 all over again. What was supposed to be an 'In Memorium' Critical Mass ride for the death of a fellow cyclist turned into confusion, oppression and of course, arrests made by Portland's finest.
The route was simple. From downtown, over the Burnside Bridge, up Sandy Boulevard to 37th, back around onto 39th and into Laurelhurst Park for a party. The ride never made it en mass to the memorial site of 37th and Sandy.
Approximately four Portland Police cars screeched to a halt when the ride came to the bottom of the Burnside Bridge at Martin Luther King, Junior Boulevard. PP blocked the ride, and two-and a half lanes of traffic eastbound from the bridge. Tickets were given to a few cyclists for 'impeading traffic'. The ride attempted to continue on across MLK, but were stopped between MLK and Grand, with more tickets given. The ride gave a last ditch effort to continue uninterrupted. At approximately 7th and Burnside, cyclists were told to get off the street, two were arrested, more tickets were issued-the madness had officially began.
Knowing it was illegal to ride their bikes on the sidewalk, with no official bike lane on Burnside, cyclists were confused by what was being asked of them. "Where are we supposed to go?" they asked. "Ride your bikes, that's what you have them for," an unidentified PP officer stated. Cyclist were unable to move into the street to ride because police cars blocked their entry into the road. At that point PP announced who ever is on the sidewalk will be issued a ticket for failing to obey an officer. We witnessed a fellow rider being manhandled by the arresting officer, and chants of 'Eastside Pricks' began. Others started to move from the scene, not knowing if they would be arrested. PP officers told this reporter to 'ride naturally' and everything would be fine. The ride scattered, with forty or so cyclists making it to the memorial site. When at last the ride ended at Laurelhurst Park, twenty of us were clapping and chearing for our returning heroes, who were followed into the park by three PP officers on motorcycles, who left the scene without incident.
This account is A-typical of how the Portland Police operate. Critical Mass rides will continue to be harassed as long as we cross the bridges into east side. We should not be intimidated by this blatant act of fascism. These are OUR streets. I asked the PP officer who issued my ticket, why we are not harassed downtown, but as soon as we get to the eastside, the blitzkrieg is waiting for us? He responded, "Each precinct has different rules, and we have different Commanders." One issue is very clear: there is only ONE police chief. The city of Portland regulates it's districts in a way similar to the Third Reich.
Waiting to act is not an option.