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Critical Mass: Thoughts for Improving the Ride, Reducing Police Harassment

Perhaps we could create a 'space' here on Indymedia for ideas/dialogue about CM.
As I posted earlier on the previous CM thread, I think flyering the cops pre-ride w/ relevant legal info is a great idea, even if it is only an amusing propaganda exercise. Maybe someone could film it for the presumably humorous, robotic police reactions.

A few other thoughts...

1. Flyers for people in cars and on the sidewalks as we ride w/ info not only about CM and what it is, but about the cost and absurdity of the police presence they're witnessing. (Perhaps someone more familiar with police activity could make a $ estimate, or something). During the last ride (as many of you know) there were bicycle cops, motorcycle cops, squad cars (marked and unmarked), the van/paddywagon that followed us around at the back of the ride, and god knows what other resources wasted on this absurd ongoing crackdown on CM. Court costs for bogus citations and court cases where officers don't show, etc.

2. It's a level of organization that might be new to Portland CM, but perhaps it would be worth trying: a handful of people who own/have access to cell phones volunteering to coordinate re-grouping sites when the ride gets split up. I've heard that NYC and maybe some other rides have done this due to the number of riders and police.

3. Because of police intolerance of corking reds, I think that we should try to stick to major streets with longer stretches between lights (and preferably without bike lanes) - sections of SW Front, Hawthorne, Belmont, Division, Powell, East and West Burnside, MLK, Grand, NE Broadway, Fremont, Alberta, etc.

Also, do any lawyer types out there know about selective enforcement of laws? One thing that really blew my mind was the PPB motorcyle gang forcing riders to stay in one half of the ridiculously narrow streets in residential SE.... ever seen them do that to a car? No, it's physically impossible.

Please post here with thoughts, ideas, rants, raves, etc.

Ed Harley
Stopping Mass Harassment 02.Sep.2003 14:21

How SF Did It

[Repost Comment: These suggestions were posted about a year ago. That's how long it took SF cyclists to stop the harassment of SF Critical Mass. Complaints about police misconduct on Portland's rides have appeared every month since. If you REALLY want to stop police infringement of your event, GET SERIOUS NOW! Use, modify, and adapt these tactics for Portland's own mass. Shop around for a class-action lawsuit. Build the foundations for one. Show some solidarity and stand up for yourselves. Or, just get used to getting your butts kicked.]

SF Critical Mass went through a yearlong period of police harassment, intimidation, and outright brutality. Dozens of tactics were tested to end the police crackdown on our bicycle celebration. Some worked, some didn't. Following is a brief list of the most effective efforts used to stop the unconstitutional attack on our right to assemble and ride together.

1. File claims for damages against the city. This is a precursor to a lawsuit or class-action lawsuit. Whether you suffered injuries from the police during their handling of the event, or simply were denied access to the roadways or passage on a certain bike route, your civil rights may have been violated. If you believe your rights were violated, file a claim. Better yet, organize a mass filing of claims by e-mail or at the next critical mass. If you can enlist the help of experienced attorneys, even better, but you don't need a lawyer to file a claim. Many cyclists claimed damages upwards of $5000 to $10,000 in San Francisco; many of SF's injured cyclists settled successfully out-of-court. Be certain to assert that critical mass is a protected first amendment event.

2. Arrange for a mass call-in day to the mayor and city councilmembers. Tell them the mass harassment must stop NOW. It's amazing how this gets their attention when each city councilmember gets 100 or more phone calls in one day. Organize by e-mail, or flyering at critical mass.

3. File complaints against individual police officers, against police policy for handling the event, and the event commanders. Get a copy of the Portland PD's general orders and crowd control guidelines, and file specific complaints against any officers and their commanders who violate even the most minor guidelines. It is your right to file a complaint against the police if you believe their conduct is unlawful or if their conduct violates police orders.

4. Pack Portland's Police Commission hearings. Spread the word to show up at the first police commission hearing following the mass. Give them an earful, and let them know a lawsuit will be on the way if the mass harassment doesn't stop. be sure to assert that CM is a protected first amendment event.

5. Contest any citation you get at Critical Mass. CM is a protected first amendment event. Riding en-masse is your form of free expression. Tickets for red lights have the same relevance that a jaywalking ticket has at a peace march. Many police won't bother to show up if you contest your ticket in person.

6. Encourage the mass to turn every 3-5 blocks. The cowardly police hold back in small numbers, and usually attack only when they have lots of backups and officers in a certain location. Bicycles are more stealth in an urban environment than cars. Turning every 3-5 blocks makes it very difficult to track where the ride will end up, and hard for the cops to stage a crackdown. It's also fun to snake about the city! When possible, try to stay on well-lit streets with lots of pedestrians. Police tend to avoid heavy-handed crackdowns in areas where there are lots of witnesses.

7. Organize to videotape every ride, and document thoroughly police harassment of the mass. Beware selling or giving footage to the corporate media, they'll simply edit the footage and lie in their commentary. Remember: every car and gas commercial shown during the news buys spin you can't match.

8. File requests for public records regarding Critical Mass. If necessary, use the FOIA to request them. To begin, request the police' general orders for handling the event; any letters, memos, and other correspondence between the mayor's office and the Portland Police Department; and any files relating to the Critical Mass event from the PJTTF.

9. Support your fellow cyclists. It sucks to get pulled aside for a ticket, only to see the mass bike off into the sunset. Encourage others to stop and support fellow riders every time the cops hand out a ticket. Be creative. One highly effective project was to print cop trading cards with the pictures of abusive officers, commanders, and descriptions of police harassment. Cops like to be seen as the good guys: let the public know the truth with cop trading cards. Pass 'em out to kids in school.

10. Be your own media. (Congratulations, you're doing this already!) Get pictures, names, badge numbers, and descriptions of aggressive police posted as news.

Stand up for your rights, fight for them, or kiss them goodbye.