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Where Critical Mass Goes, Police Harrasment Follows

It was a beautiful day today in the North Park Blocks for this months Critical Mass. The sun was out, the city attorney was about (who was in the mass), the police were there in force, and the people of Portland didn't disappoint.
I arrived just shortly after 5:30 p.m. entering the park to enjoy some shade. After a little while of waiting a few friends arrived and we began to converse to pass the time. Shortly after some yummy food from the always awesome folks at Food Not Bombs bells rang signaling to everyone it was almost time to start to pedaling.

As the mass began (at about 6:00 p.m. with police following suit) everyone was in high spirits making noise, smiling, laughing, having a great time. Going through downtown Portland like always, critical mass zigzagged all about for about twenty minutes before heading over the Hawthorn Bridge.

By this time like always we waved goodbye as the bicycle police went back to work doing better things like stopping crime. Everyone crossed the bridge and started to head up Hawthorn.

Still with the police "escorting us" handing out tickets left and right to people for whatever reasons the mass went through a neighborhood as neighbors looked out from their houses, sidewalk, and yards. On our way back out yielding for a tri-met bus everyone decided to head back up Hawthorn from 10th.

With the support of the Hawthorn area behind us like always, we continued on. A little ways from where I was I noticed a person who had been stopped by the police in front of a Safeway, so I decided to break away from the mass at that point and witness what was going on. Apparently the person who had been stopped didn't have id and was (from what I overhead) about to be arrested for not having any. I guessed the police changed their minds and rather then arrest this person, gave them a ticket.

I decided to go and head on down Hawthorn.

While on my way a few police cars were off in the distance with their lights on. I noticed a small group of six people off to the side on a sidewalk so I asked what just happened. It seems that a friend had been stopped for something I'm not sure of, but was later let go. With that I joined these people still, talking to them now starting to head in the general direction I was going anyway.

One... two, three, four, five, six, seven we all turned a corner, no traffic in front of us in sight. All of a sudden a big huge air horn sounded. Everyone just though it was some ass hole behind us trying to get by. We couldn't make out the type of car it was because the sun was in our faces, not to mention we had to pay attention to the road in front of us.

As we all in a group turned the corner the horn sounded again and a man on a speaker said, "you in the black sweatshirt and backpack stop," so we all did as the police officer seemed to be paying special attention to me.

he got out of his unmarked dark blue car and turn on his lights parking somewhat on the side of the street and pointed at me... "You, come here," so I got off my bicycle and walked over to the officer.

"Am I being detained officer Johnson?" I said name-tag now visible.


"Why am I being detained?"

"Because you failed to stop at a stop sign," said the officer.

"Well why am I the only one being stopped when there are all these people who were riding with me and are not being questioned?"

Then the officer went into a whole explanation of why he was stopping me, asking if I was a "sheep" for riding with these people going through a stop sign. I told him no I'm not but asked again why I was the only one who was being detained if we all ran a stop sign. The officer then asked for my id. I don't have a valid Oregon id, just some school id so I handed it over not really feeling a vibe to say no and get arrested.

Officer Johnson then asked where I lived and not having a home I answered, "a friends." With that the officer went back to his car and tried running my name. I guess he couldn't do it from the car he was in so he called for another car, but before he did officer Johnson started to talk on his cell phone to someone on the other line after dialing. Officer Johnson then called in on his CB for another car which showed up five to ten minutes later.

Officer Johnson then got out of his car, got into a marked police car and then started to run my name again. Another officer stood guard over me as I watched on the corner, just standing there... waiting.

Again with my id in hand officer Johnson went back to his car with now a book of tickets that he had been filling out. While in his car I watched the officer ad he pulled out a digital camera. I turned around not wanting my picture taken still standing there.

Officer Johnson then said my name hoping I would look up, I didn't so instead took his camera and tried taking a picture of my face looking down at the ground. Again and again he tried taking a picture trying to be sneaky about it, but was obvious.

When I asked officer Johnson what he was going to do with my picture he said, "it's for my file."

Still not allowing for a decent shot of myself the officer took note of my video camera asking me why it was okay for me to film them out on the streets but he couldn't take a picture of me. I pretty much didn't say anything after that and just continued to not allow my picture to be taken.

The people I was with were like, "what the fuck? Why are they taking pictures of this guy?"

I like to think it was my dashing good looks but I know better. Still officer Johnson went on...

"Why are you trying to hide your face? Are you hiding something that you don't want us to know?"

I then said, "I just don't want my picture taken."

"Well why not? Your not lying to us are you?"

"No, I'm telling the truth."

With that the officer gave me the ticket he had been holding onto and went into the whole process of showing up for court. I asked if I was free to go, "oh yeah, you can go," said officer Johnson and then started to head back to his car.

Can someone say selective enforcement? Well I can, and that's what happened out there on the streets of Portland today.

If anyone wants to show up in support my court day is on 09/24/03 Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. in circuit court room 106, address: 1021 SW Fourth Ave.

See you in court.
Inflamed! 29.Aug.2003 22:54


I am inflamed with your ticket and the brashness of the Ptld. police! "Selective enforcement," yes. What the heck, they've got to take your picture in the street? People have a right for their picture not to be taken. The gall of that officer. It really pizzes me off. I support you. Sorry I didn't see you guys. I was at the PPRC rally, Pioneer Square, at 6 p.m. No sign of you bike riders then. Keep on peddling..................

30 year rider 29.Aug.2003 23:52

my word

Glad to see you have a bit of a sweat. Smugness is scene to advantage in the memory, after it's been reduced to whining. Critical Mass - man keep your laws off my bike.

Eh 30.Aug.2003 02:39

Teddy Ruxpin

This was obviously police harassment, and somehow we have to find a way to stop it from going on.

But I have to point something out. It is really just me being petty, but I have a wierd obsession with people who say things are unconstitutional or that they have certain rights, when they are wrong.

People do not have a right to not have their picture taken, gk. You can hide your face, you can go inside a private area with a visual blockage, you can turn your back. But there is no right to abstain from photos in a public place. This is how the press operates (both corporate and indy).

The cops were being assholes, and their enforcement and actions were likely illegal there. The camera on the other hand, was totally legit (on both sides).

Licensing blah blah blah 30.Aug.2003 07:14

Metal Pancreas

Also it should be pointed out that you do NOT have to give police any forms of identification if you are riding your bicycle (see number 5 below). Of course Oregon law probably also says something about there being no police harrasment, but that still happens...

1.Bike riders on roadways have the same rights as motor vehicle operators, and must obey the same laws. Bike riders must signal all turns, come to full stops at all stop signs and traffic lights, yield turns to pedestrians and oncoming traffic, etc. Oregon State law does not require that a bike rider must put his/her foot on the ground during a complete stop.
2. Bike riders on sidewalks have the same rights and must follow the same laws as pedestrians, and must be responsible for the safety of pedestrians. This does not apply in the Portland downtown Fareless Square, where bikes are not allowed on sidewalks.
3. Bike riders must travel as close as is safe to the right side of the roadway, unless (a) travelling at the speed of traffic, (b) avoiding hazardous conditions, (c) preparing to turn left, (d) using a one-way street. Although bike riders have the right to the full lane of traffic if necessary for safety, they must pull over at the first safe opportunity to allow faster traffic to pass.
4. Bike riders have the right to travel 2 abreast (but not more than 2), unless riding 2 abreast impedes the normal flow of traffic. However, with reference to #3, if there is not enough room for a bike and a car to travel in the same lane safely, 2 bikes may ride abreast and impede the flow of traffic.
5. Bike riders do not have to carry identification.
6. At night, the bike must use a white light in front that is visible from 500 feet away, and have a red reflector (if not a light) on the rear.
7. Bike riders under 16 years of age are required to wear a helmet.
8. Bike riders may carry loads as long as one hand is always on the handlebars and full control of the bike is maintained at all times. This does not apply to passengers, unless the bike is specifically made for more than one person.

These guidelines are taken from the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS). For more information, contact the City of Portland Bicycle Program, 823-7082, or the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, 226-0676, or at www.bta4bikes.org. Created by Portland Copwatch 503-236-3065

photos and your rights 30.Aug.2003 08:34


What about the Oregon law making it illegal for popo to keep files on individuals and groups not suspected of any crime? Maybe Johnson was photographing the Indyvolunteer so he could take the picture home and masturbate, but his own explanation of wanting it in his file is just as likely. I'm sure that there is a big, fat IMC file in the Ministry of Love.

Would a lawyer chime in with lawyerly advice?

Laws and Cyclists 30.Aug.2003 11:29

bike lawyer (not)

Check out the following links for information about laws pertaining to cycling. Regarding taking a lane, ORS 811.425 (Failure of slower driver to yield to overtaking vehicle) states that this law applies on a "two-directional two-lane highway". The implication is that when the "highway" (i.e., road) has more than one travel lane in one direction, and a cyclist feels the need to occupy an entire travel lane, then there is no need to move over to allow overtaking vehicles to pass. As long as there is another lane in the same direction for use by the "overtaking vehicles" then you don't have to move over. This is why cyclists can "take the lane" through much of downtown and streets like Hawthorne without needing to move over.

This is just a slight correction to "Licensing blah blah blah" above, who states that cyclists must pull over to allow faster vehicles to pass. This is only true if there is only one travel lane in the direction of travel.

Also, ORS 814.430 (Improper use of lanes) says cyclists should ride as "close as practicable to the right curb or edge of roadway". One of the conditions under which cyclists do not have to stay right is "the roadway that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side". The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan defines a minimum bicycle facility as a 14-foot "wide outside lane", which is considered one step down from a bicycle lane. The plan says that at this width a travel lane is wide enough for cyclists and motorists to operate side by side. Therefore, one can presume that a lane narrower than 14' does not allow safe side-by-side operation and at any width less than 14' cyclists should take the lane. Of course, they would have to move right when safe to do so to allow overtaking vehicles to pass.

Also interesting to note that ORS 814.440 (Failure to signal) states that it is ok for a cyclist to not signal a turn if "the person is operating a bicycle and does not give the appropriate signal continuously for a stop or turn because circumstances require that both hands be used to safely control or operate the bicycle." So, if you feel that you've got to keep both hands on the handlebars to safely control your bicycle, then you don't have to signal.

Links to laws:  http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/811.html;  http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/814.html
Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Web Site:  http://www.odot.state.or.us/techserv/bikewalk/

Not typical this month 30.Aug.2003 15:18


Sorry to hear that you were harassed by the PPD on the CM ride. All things considered, the popo were actually on their best behavior this month, since there were reps from Erik Sten's staff, PDOT and the City Attorney's office cycling along on the ride as 'observers'. I did, however, speak to someone from SF CA after the ride that was appalled by the PPD presence and behavior -- the police in SF facilitate CM these days, rather than harassing it, after a lot of negative publicity resulting from a police riot at CM in the summer of 1997.

welcome to the "Ticket Club" 30.Aug.2003 15:38


I was also riding n the mass last nigt, I also got a ticket.
For running a red light at SW 5t and Columbia downtown.
I was in the midst of other riders, and being "escorted" by motorcycle cops.
Since traffic had stopped, due to the large # of bikes, I slowed, and then proceeded around the corner.
It seems one of the cars in the front of the row of traffic was an unmarked police officer.
He pulled up beside me as I went down the hill, and asked" if I knew what a red light was?"
I said "Yes" and continued, another block away, he finally said "Pull over'".
After giving me my ticket, which was barely legible, the officer asked if I had any questions.
I said yes, I cant even read this ticket, he said that is because he has to write through 5 copies.
Then mentions the "only part I need to worry about is the court date"..
After that I he asked if there was anything else, I said no, I will see you in court.
He then mumbled something about how he wouldn't be there.

I feel that I was operating my bicyle in a much safer manner than the policeman who were "escorting" us.
I saw several illegal and unsafe acts, such as wrong way down a one way, running stop signs and red lights, etc.

I went to the Black lab brewery afterwards, and was told by others that have got tickets, to simply mail it in an d plead not guilty.
A guy who did this a few months ago, is still waiting for a reply, and possilbe court date..Possibly a dismissal?
Perhaps us ticket holders can get together and approach the District attorney, and have them dismissed.
Is there a chance the "ticket club" can get together and start a class action suit againt this type of activiy?

The arbitrary way the bicycle laws are enforced is confusing to me, until I realized they are just trying to discourage us.

I am now more fired up than ever about Critical Mass.

Thats my story...

No surprise, eh what... 30.Aug.2003 16:10


No surprise that the police behavior on CM rides fires cyclists' up to return for next month's CM ride. The police that accompany CM are incredibly arrogant and display a vast ignorance of traffic law as it applies to cyclists. I was 'warned' that I had to ride in the right lane while proceeding with CM southbound on SW 3rd. I informed the officer that I was legally allowed to ride in any lane I wished as long as I was keeping up with the normal speed of traffic (ORS 814.430(1)). The officers of course had no idea...all they did was repeat their warning, at which point I bailed on these two officers and repositioned myself in the ride.

Oregon Statutes for Cyclists 101 30.Aug.2003 16:15


In response to Bike Lawyer (not) -- ORS 814.430 is probably the more approriate statute w/r/t legal issues regarding bicyclists 'taking the lane'.

Disconcerting 30.Aug.2003 17:45


Officer Johnson's taking your picture - and his persistence in taking it regardless of your disinclination - is worrisome. Did you try saying to him in a clear loud enough voice, "DO NOT TAKE MY PICTURE"? I understand picture-taking is both a legal and common policing tool, yet there is little cause for him to take a picture, given your scenario.

It would be interesting to ask Maxine Bernstein to run this practice down with Johnson's sergeant. "Can I see your collection?" is the key question. Max? Are you listening here? Dave Mazza?

I had the opportunity many years ago to paw through a file cabinet at the Old Town Booking Office filled with sad Polaroids. Each photo was oddly the same. A man, usually Mexican but not always, handcuffed and sitting in a hardwood chair (in the foyer of the office). Typically exhausted from dope-run + flight + adrenalin rush of cop-contact, gaunt and vacant, withdrawing into a jailhouse mantra. I knew too many of these guys at the time, and was typically looking for a handful. None of these guys thought twice about their "rights." Their right was that of the streets - the right to run until they were caught.

But a few years later I met a pal who had been through all those rough times and had done quite a bit of time and had turned around his life. He'd just walked out of the Old Town office holding one of the Polaroids. It was one (of perhaps many) of himself on a bad bad night long ago. Scottie had given it to him, or maybe it was Tom Mack. The Man had seen a positive change in my friend and pulled him aside to give him a memento. No hard feelings? Nah, I can't afford to hate you. I live life on life's terms and I am leaving and not intending to come back, he said. He didn't and we are both better off. Adios cops!

Good point 30.Aug.2003 18:32

Teddy Ruxpin

If Oregon law forbids cops keeping files on non-criminals, you may have grounds for action there. If that cop has files he has made in his official line of duty, you can also harass him by filing open records requests. He is legally required to turn over those photos of all the people he harassed to you for inspection (or at least make you copies) if they are "official," and if he is doing it while on duty, it sounds like government documentation to me.

Then wait a day, and have one of your friends file the request. Then the next day, repeat as necessary. . .

files? 30.Aug.2003 19:10

Not that we didn't know this, but....

Isn't it illegal for them to have files on us? Please check with alan graf or someone about this. I'm no lawyer, but i'm really sick of the pig harassment in this city. They're really starting to piss me off, and i was once on their side. these guys are whackos.

critical mass 30.Aug.2003 20:44

bike rider

Critical mass has done more to set back bicycling in this city than any automotive innovation or pandering. Guys are the intellectual/political equivalent of the SUV.

Not A Lawyer - where is Douglas Squirrel? 30.Aug.2003 20:59


I am not a lawyer. Obviously police have files. Anyone who's ever been pulled over have a "file." These files are not in manila envelopes, in file cabinets, in locked and secret rooms. They are - at least - in the Law Enforcement Database System (LEDS), which is accessable by all Oregon badge-carrying folk. HIPPA and other privacy protections do not apply.

The question is - is there a "task force" or a specific group of police officers who have been detailed to figure out Portland's bikers, critical massers, lefties, weirdos, or any other subgroup? This isn't paranoid thinking. There's no reason (especially with the PARC report) to think the police's internal behavior has changed in the past ten years.

Where's Douglas Squirrel BTW?

See  http://www.rdrop.com/~pjw/PPR19/spyscandal.html

Is it illegal? No. Is it unethical? Yes. Is it foolhardy policing? Possibly. Is it intimidation? Yes.

Flyering the Cops 30.Aug.2003 21:19

Ed Harlet

Perhaps someone could create a flyer containing laws relevant to bicycling/CM, and hand them out to cops before the ride.

flyering the cops 31.Aug.2003 10:01


Man your idea to flyer the cops is just too fricken hillarious to pass up. Someone NEEDS to do this!!!! I would even put the money up for it I like the idea so much. Anyone care to post the specific ORSs that relate to legal biking and police behavoir.
I am still laughing at the thought ignorant police officers being confused by receiving flyers about their own actions!!!

files 31.Aug.2003 14:14


my understanding is that the cops are allowed to keep all the files they want, just not of individual people. so they can keep a file called "critical mass" that has your photos all over it, but they can't keep a file called "kurt kabang" until they see me running a red light or stop sign or marching in the street without a permit, or anything else that is breaking a law, or if i'm suspected of intending to break a law. once you have a file for breaking a law, my understanding is that they can add to that file as an "open case". or something. don't take this as legal advise, though.

and i love love love the idea of flyering the cops. that's fucking hilarious.

my issue with critical mass this month was when the cop in the bitchin' camaro (or whatever it was) came flying up the street with sirens blasting as soon as the lanes switched from two to one on hawthorne. the bikers in front held their ground and the cop had to slam on his breaks to avoid smashing into them. it was total terror tactics and we held our ground peacefully and the cop switched off his siren immediately. i knew we had won that battle when a yuppie conservative looking woman waiting to eat sush said to us, "oh my god, i can't believe we're paying money so cops would run down bikers." i urged her to call katz and she shook her head approvingly. i think we won a new convert that night.

I had been intending to flyer the cops ... 31.Aug.2003 14:34


Ever since I encountered an officer who apparently didn't know it was legal to bicycle in the sidewalk on the East side, I've wanted to flyer the cops before a ride. I'm working on this when I have time. Any ideas for the flyer, please post. It will basically have a summary of the Oregon statutes as they apply to bicycling, and some info on the rights of arrestees, etc.

What?? 01.Sep.2003 11:37


I guess Im the only one who doesnt get the original point in this article. You freely admit that you ran a stop sign, which the last I checked is a violation of traffic laws just about anywhere in the United States. But you think your being harrased because everyone else did it too and you happened to be the one he pinched? What kind of juvenile rationalization is that?

Obviously the Officer couldn't pull everyone over, you just happened to be the one he picked. Thats not harrasement.

Re: 'Obviously the Officer couldn't pull everyone over' 02.Sep.2003 01:39


According to the original author, everyone did pull over:

"As we all in a group turned the corner the horn sounded again and a man on a speaker said, "you in the black sweatshirt and backpack stop," so we all did as the police officer seemed to be paying special attention to me."

The reasoning of "Author" doesn't seem to have any basis. Why couldn't the officer pull everyone over? This has been done countless times by Portland Police. What prevented it from happening in this situation?

Nice Dodge 02.Sep.2003 13:59


ok then, everyone was pulled over. My reasoning still stands..... why is getting a ticket for running a stop sign harrasement? The "everyone else was doing it" mentality is still without merit.

Harassment? 02.Sep.2003 16:09


Author writes: "...why is getting a ticket for running a stop sign harrasement?"

Put in those terms, I don't think that this could be considered harassment. However, if the police were singling out this person because of their perception of this person's beliefs, then it is not only harassment, but political repression, and a Constitutional violation.

I don't know if this was the case, as I was not there, but I have seen several other cases of this happening in Portland. I have also witnessed many violent Portland Police attacks against people who were not resisting, and mild torture techniques applied to people in custody. These are also Constitutional abuses.

The police also routinely enforce traffic laws against these cyclists, (repression), while overtly looking the other way when motorists commit infractions, and in some cases, use their vehicles as weapons.

If the Portland police want to improve traffic safety, that is fine with me. Up till now they have demonstrated an inability to do that. Not only do they fail miserably to broadly enforce traffic laws, but many have demonstrated extremely poor knowledge of these laws. Police officers routinely fail to use turn signals, yield to pedestrians, observe speed limits when not responding to calls, or allow safe distances between themselves and cylists while passing them.

America-Land of the Free???? 14.Feb.2004 01:51

Starshine wcratz1@yahoo.com

Welcome to America youngsters....who do you call when its the cops that are dirty? Not saying they ALL are a**holes just 98% of them. We the people have a choice to take it quietly going to the slaughter like good little lambs or putting up a fight...maybe even (gasp) dying to preserve our freedoms...Communist Russia did not fall, it simply moved...here.