In a bizarre twist of spontaneous regrouping and the immediate need to not be lambs for the slaughter, a small group of legally gathered, un-permitted bike riders (less than 50) took another form of transportation…the subway to start the April Critical Mass. At around 7:30pm, April 27th, 2007 less than 50 people gathered at the North side of Union Square for the monthly critical mass bike ride. It was kind of sad really, that our numbers have been so whittled down by the tiresome antics of the NYPD. I haven’t gone to critical mass in almost a year, but with the break in the action of foul weather and watching a lot of messed up video footage, I felt like it was time to attend. It has really gotten to the point of “not going” makes the police win in their war against a fun event, especially with all this talk of Green Initiatives and reducing global warming. I just get this feeling, that the bike riders are in the right and with persistence, we can be like that blade of grass breaking through concrete and thus eroding the system. I mean, lets not forget the basics…we started this ride, and after all…we are JUST RIDING BICYCLES!
So it was looking grim, there in Union Square, 40 of us die-hards who were starting to be out numbered by scooter cops, people with video cameras and those who came to support the ride, but didn’t bring bicycles…just to see if there was any action, like mass ticketing or tackling. I know, I didn’t want to leave Union Square and quickly have to dodge cops or watch my friends get ticketed for no reason. Is this what Critical mass has become? Ugh. Someone surfaced the idea that we hop on the 4 subway and go somewhere else. This idea became increasingly popular as the time moved away from 7:30, about when the mass gets started and no one had any intention of being the first to leave the park on bike. This is what eventually happened…and it worked! We all walked to the subway stop at the North End of Union square, picked up our bikes and went on the subway…amazing. As we searched for metrocards and passed through the turnstiles…a group of uniformed officers, desperate to have some sort of retribution, ran over to a few riders and questioned them about weather they swiped their cards…with enough erratic fervor that you could of sworn Richard Colvin Reid, the shoe bomber, had escaped Gauntanomo and was loose on the subway. “Stop, hey you, did you swipe your card?” Ridiculous. Other than that, we were scott free. We waited on the GREEN train platform, squeezed into multiple cars, which would have been a lot more difficult if we were more than 50 and headed to Fulton Street in the downtown financial district area. When we got downtown, we got out and gathered on Broadway and then began critical mass…POLICE FREE. This was truly amazing. We had one giant wheel unicycle, one tallbike and about 40 other riders. We had lost a few people along the way, some didn’t go on the subway, some got off at the wrong stop and there was rumor that a group went to Brooklyn, thinking we meant the other Fulton St. For the most part, we were united as a group, taking up all the lanes of traffic and engaged in a fun critical mass. As we headed up Church St. towards Canal, it seemed that a lot more people knew who we were. There was a lot of friendly supportive honking from motor vehicles and crowd waving. We stayed mostly downtown and our numbers grew a little as others joined in and meet up from Union Square…I still think we were always just under 50…so we were technically legal.
It was a successful critical mass…no tickets, no arrests and no cops. Interesting. This new tactic of taking the subway and starting the ride outside of Union Square, seemed to work really well, but we were a tight group. It definitely brings up ideas of starting future rides elsewhere or meeting in a new spot all together…hmmm.
I say we start the multiple meet-up spots, or get back to the text messaging list where you don’t find out the start till 7:30pm. The thought process is that no matter what we do, the cops catch wind of it (with all their infiltration) and spoil our fun anyway. Its still worth a try and it was really amazing to have a successful critical mass.
We need to get the numbers up…so come to the next ride!
There is a video up already from last nights ride, made by the Times Up video collective and Team Spider.
Yesterday, activists gathered in City Hall Park to protest the head of the city council, Christine Quinn, who has taken a stance on the side of the police in the new parade rules which state…that no more than 50 people can demonstrate without a permit.
Gays, Lesbians and Transgender activists lead a small march of MORE than 50 people (possibly around 100) to show their outrage with such an unconstitutional ruling, especially apporved by the head of the legislative body of the city. Christine Quinn, a lesbian, once was willing to put herself on the front lines to fight for gay rights and issues surrounding HIV and AIDS, now believes it is a fair ruling. Its ok to protest in this city as long as you ask to police for permission…Yeah Right.
This is why the lead banner in the march was…Stonewall was and unpermitted action!
100 or so marchers came out of City Hall Park, flanked by an army of independent news videographers and the usual row of scooter cops, now synonymous with Critical Mass.
There was some pushing and shoving by the loose cannon police when we dared to take our march into the street for half a second…ooohhh, right around ground zero. There were 3 arrests…
If your wondering what happened to Chris Ryan’s video about this demonstration…I was asked to remove it because of some inappropraite text in the video which claims Gays don’t ride bikes…it wasn’t in good taste.
Here is a link to the Glass Bead Collectives video of the same protest.
Once again, this video shows how the NYPD deal with demonstrations…permit or no permit.
First the demonstrators engage in civil disobedience…like when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat…they step into the sacred streets. Then the cops alert them to get on the sidewalk, by running over and shoving them…in this case a woman. When the demonstrators do not comply the cops push even more violently until one particular person (in the red track jacket) is on the sidewalk. The demonstrator tells the cops he is now on the sidewalk. The white shirted police sergeant says..”good now you are on the sidewalk,” and proceeds to punch to person in the stomach. Then the cops pull the demonstrator with his bruised gut into the streets and proceed to dogpile on him with 5 cops…ohhh so tough.
Simple fascism in all its glory…the VIDEOS don’t lie.
IF only we had a permit…this wouldn’t happen….NOT!
We need people who live and work in Community Board 2 to stand up and support the Transportation Committee’s resolution in support of bike improvements on Prince, Bleecker AND Houston Streets!
Here are the meeting details:
Thursday, April 19th, 6:30pm St Vincent’s Hospital, Cronin Auditorium, 10th floor West 12th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues *Please arrive by 6:45pm Sign a speaker’s card and write “Yes to Prince and Bleecker bike lanes” on it.
Without a solid showing of support from people who live and work in the area, it is very likely that the full Community Board will not support these bike improvements; the status quo will remain and the city will not be any closer to becoming a more inviting place to cycle.
A small group of anti-bike, anti-change residents are putting strong pressure on the full Community Board to reject the bike lanes. They will be out in numbers on Thursday to decry these changes to make New York a more bikeable city. If we do not fill the room with one hundred supporters, we will lose this vote and lose these bike lanes.
If people cannot make Thursday’s meeting, please write or call Community Board 2 in support of the Prince & Bleecker bike lanes:
Manhattan Community Board 2 District Manager Bob Gormley 3 Washington Square Village, Suite 1A Phone: 212-979-2272 FAX: 212-254-5102 E-MAIL: email@example.com
Without support from the neighborhood, change will not happen. If more people show up at the Community Board to shout down these bike lanes than to support them, then the board will not support them and the neighborhood will have lost the opportunity to help New York become a better place to bike. Please show your support for this plan and speak out at this important meeting.
You can see the DOT’s presentation on the Prince and Bleecker bike lanes at: against-new-bike-lanes-in-soho/#more-1627″> Streets blog
I hope to see you on Thursday. Please e-mail or call me with any questions.
Thank you very much!
Noah S. Budnick Deputy Director Advocacy Transportation Alternatives 127 West 26th Street, Suite 1002, New York, NY 10001-4010 Phone (212) 629-8080 Fax (212) 629-8334 Direct (646) 873-6022 Mobile (917) 684-2912 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . www.transalt.org