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Critical Mass Turns Into May Day on Bikes

Police Harass Special Critical Mass in Memorium for Cyclist Death. Two arrested and at least six citations were issued.
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.
stupid pigs 28.Jul.2001 16:01

Craig Gary craigpgary@yahoo.com

That totally sucks about the dumb cops fucking with ya'll. Up here in Seattle on May Day the cops arrested some naked bike riders and violently arrested a woman that was apparently getting in the way of the officers. After the scuffle there was a huge chunk of the womans hair on the ground. It was pretty fucked up.
However yesterday on our monthly ride we had some bike cops riding along with us. It was pretty sweet.

long way come.. long way to go 29.Jul.2001 00:34


things to remember...

-downtown has has more crime and thus the cops are mellow on bikes(relatively

-east side cops are bored.. their day is empty and meaningless

-no one should fear riding the mass. it is our voice for visiblity

I rode the mass ride on friday and felt good about things until we crossed the river. the memorial at the freeway entrance was empowering ... the many of us who made it there met up with friends and family of the biker who was killed... we held the space in silence for several minutues.. then we made a circle holding hands. goddess was with us.

chill 29.Jul.2001 01:03


I find it offensive to compare the present situation to the Third Reich. So the police hassle you a little, chill out. I would be far more concerned about police shooting innocent people than police giving a very few cyclists tickets. There are bigger problems in the world. It's not like your right to ride a bike is being taken away. Portland's a much "bike-friendlier" city than most major cities I have visited, except for Europe perhaps.

re: chill 30.Jul.2001 09:16


One of the ideas behind critical mass is that cars kill -- not just when there are "accidents", but when you consider the catastophic environmental damange they contribute to.

I see little difference between an innocent person dying of a bullet wound and an innocent person dying because of a pollution-causing global-warming-induced draught.

The Nazi reference may be a bit off-color, but it's not off-target.

we've worked for mellow central cops 30.Jul.2001 10:55


it's important to note that some riders hae worked hard to have a conversation , multiple, with the central precinct cops and that is why they are more mellow.

the cops in se have not been willing to meet. there was a clear difference on tehis past ride. for the last 4 rides, the central cops have been really cgood, there hae been so few of them on teh ride and they are not super aggro, and hae not been issuing citations or arresting people.

well, obviously teh se precinct has alot to learn.

what is so amazing to me (and quite a news story) is how the cops in se have a differnt set of laws. that is realy messed up.

write vera a letter. (address below)

last time we sent her copius letters surrounding critical mass, she passed the note along to commander findling from central and some dialogue began which lead to the situation current in downtown on rides, an a-okay thing.

let's see what we can do for se, it'll be a battle but it's worth it. as one cops said on the ride as we entered SE, "watch out for those se cops, they're real mean".

mayor vera katz
1221 sw 4th avenuie
suite 340
portland or 97204


Letter to Mayor Katz 31.Jul.2001 10:23

Lee T. White wlsherri@qwest.net

Enclosed are a story and photos from Portland's Independent Media Center (portland.indymedia.org) about the latest encounter between the police and Critical Mass, a group that promotes bicycling by riding through the streets the last Friday evening each month. This is not an isolated incident. The police harass this group every month for no good reason. It is time to stop this nonsense once and for all.
My wife and I witnessed some of this "selective enforcement" a few months ago at the intersection of 21st and West Burnside. Four squad cars, at least as many motorcycles and a van suddenly blocked all westbound traffic and the intersection. Traffic remained snarled for at least 10 minutes apparently in the name of "safety." Several officers proceeded to throw one bicyclist to the ground and handcuff him. This man's only offense seemed to be that he rode two feet from the curb. Neither my wife nor I rides bicycles. We do not participate in street protests (yet). We, like others who found the incident disturbing, were simply on our way to do some shopping after dinner.
As a former reporter who covered law enforcement extensively for 13 years, I could not understand what it was about this little band of bicyclists that warranted such an extensive use of scarce police resources. Certainly there are bigger and better crimes going on in a city of this size on a Friday night. You complained about having to foot the bill for police in the schools. The city currently airs television commercials practically begging people to become cops. Yet, month after month, during a traditionally busy time of day for most law enforcement agencies, the Portland Police Bureau, which you supervise, squanders its manpower on offenses that are about as inconsequential as jaywalking.
Let there be no question as to the officers' motives. The police bureau harasses Critical Mass because of the political views and actions of some of its members. It is no secret that some of these folks attend gatherings such as the May Day demonstration. I imagine some of them are socialists, communists, Marxists or pacifists. Hell, a few of them may even be - gasp! - pagan. Cops traditionally don't mix well with people like these. Police especially abhor folks who protest the death sentences of convicted cop killers such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, as many of the Critical Mass riders have done. Only a fool would expect anyone to believe that the police bureau's actions toward Critical Mass are rooted in concern for the safety of riders, citizens or officers.
Perhaps a bit of background about me might interest you. I am writing my first book titled "Act Locally: A Handbook for the Town Activist." In it, I describe how the average person who's teachable and willing to work hard can develop the skills necessary to defeat local politicians and replace them with ones who are sympathetic to the cause - whatever that may be. It's an attempt to turn a hobby into a profession. In other words, do what you love and the money will follow (I hope). I have not tested these theories in Portland since moving to the area two years ago because, generally, I believe the city is managed well. I am proud to tell my family and friends back in Kansas about my new home. In a couple of weeks, my parents will visit here for the first time. I can't wait to show them all that Portland has to offer. If I continue reading about these silly "bicycle busts," however, I may find it necessary to take a more active interest in city government.
The time has come for you to assert your authority as mayor to investigate the police bureau's actions against Critical Mass and to stop this dangerous, wasteful and unconstitutional abuse of authority. I hope to see reports to this effect soon in the mainstream media.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

the ride sucked 31.Jul.2001 20:23

i'll give you that

The ride sucked, I'll give you that, but whoeer called it Mayday 1999 all over again obviously wasn't riding CM last fall when people got severely arrested and physically assulted by cops.

In any case, let us remember this was a ride in memorium of a deceased cyclist. Let us continue to ride together in solidarity for the safety of all those who want

- clean air
- cheaper transport
- healthier body
- safer roads
- more quiet environment
- more greenspace
- a slowing down

hmmmm, and 'they' act like we're devils on wheels.

my letter 31.Jul.2001 21:02


July 31, 2001

Dear Mayor Katz,

It is with great sadness that I write you this letter. I thought I was through with my letters to you regarding critical mass rides in Portland, but now a cyclist has died and those who tried to hold a memorial ride received citations from the SE Precinct.

On the July critical mass ride, we circled through Downtown with a few police on bikes following us and occasionally conversing. The ride was pleasant. We crossed the Hawthorne Bridge to visit the spot where a cyclist was recently killed. As soon as we reached the east side of the bridge, police cars swarmed the intersection and began issuing citation while holding up all east bound lanes of car traffic.

As we attempted to proceed forward, more citations were issued as well as one arrest.

How certain behavior can be legal in one section of the city and illegal in another is disgusting. Individuals who enjoy riding critical mass have held dialogue with Commander Findling and he understands that we are not a safety hazard when we ride together. From what I understand, attempts at scheduling a dialogue with Lieutenant Crebbs and the SE Precinct have been unsuccessful. They are not as open to the idea of communicating on this issue. It seems they would rather try to bully us out of riding in “their” precinct by stopping us as soon as we cross the bridge.

We had a permit to gather in Laurelhurst Park and were heading that way. To prevent us from travelling together when we are riding safely is wrong. Some riders, fearing how the SE police would respond to our presence, suggest we break up and take separate routes to the park. How ludicrous! Do you ask Blazers fans to take separate side streets to reach the game?

When the police choose to arrest or cite a cyclist, they often do so with force. I have witnessed multiple riders pulled from their bikes and thrown to the ground as if they were armed criminals. A bicycle is not a weapon. It is a form of transportation that promotes less city pollution and congestion and improves health. We are helping ourselves and improving the beauty of Portland when we ride our bicycles. Bicycles are less of a threat to pedestrians than a car and a less car-congested city has been proven to boost sales as people are more apt to mill about the city.

Because our own attempts at conversing with the SE Precinct have been unsuccessful, I urge you take a stand on this issue and reduce the police presence at critical mass rides. Surely the amount of money, our tax dollars, spent on police force at critical mass rides could be spent on education and other much-needed causes in Portland. There is no need to waste so much money on a bicycle ride. There is no reason that all precincts cannot follow the example the Central Precinct has set in creating a good relationship between riders and the police.

Bikes on sidewalks? 01.Aug.2001 09:30


No bikes on sidewalks? I thought this was only downtown, as per the city code:

No person may ... ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, unless avoiding a traffic hazard in the immediate area, within the area bounded by and including SW Jefferson, Front Avenue, NW Hoyt and 13th Avenue...

< http://ordlink.com/codes/portland/_DATA/TITLE16/Chapter_16_70_MISCELLANEOUS_REGULA/16_70_320_Operating_Rules___.html>

keep on 02.Aug.2001 14:27


ALL we gotta keep on ridin'
ain't nonthingelse we can do
how we going to get to work?

KEEP on riding
together with you
let the cops chase us I call em pork

STICK together
though it be hard
keep riding
cause the fight be good

tensions are a'rising 02.Aug.2001 14:56


whoops on the last post....as far as may day on bikes i would assume it was relating to the police putting bikers in different spots, trying to make life difficult for massers. this was similar to may day last year. the point is, they can't handle people of all backgrounds standing their ground together. there response? make life difficult and maybe bust a few heads while they are at it.

be careful all...

Folks are sayin' 02.Aug.2001 17:11

Sam Kreston

bullets are gonna fly