LAPD Tackle Cyclists at Friday’s Critical Mass

11_30_09_lacm.jpgPhoto from of cyclists going through Second Street Tunnel via LACM's twitter feed.

Bike discussion sites have been abuzz since last Friday with news that things got ugly when Los Angeles Critical Mass breezed onto Los Angeles Street and ran into an LAPD Squad Car facing against traffic with its lights flashing.  According to eye witnesses, the two officers tackled cyclists off their bikes at the front of the mass and were still trying to drag massers off their bikes at the tail of the mass.  Witnesses claim that there was no announcement that riders should dismount nor any attempt to signal out riders that were lawbreakers, just an attempt to randomly grab cyclists and detain them.  From at one poster at Midnight Ridazz:

I got grabbed by the female officer after trying to ride around all the kids they had already brought down since I was at the back of the pack. She didn't ask me to stop, I was obeying all traffic laws, she just fucking grabbed my upper arm while I was riding by at about 15 mph trying to catch up to the pack. Thankfully I was able to shake her off and not go down. We were on Los Angeles St., no traffic, no peds, totally quiet, and I guess this pair of cops got pissed that some people were riding on the wrong side of the road.

There are a couple of issues here.  Assuming that the witnesses aren't all suffering from a form of mass delusion or a massive attempt at a group cover up, we have cops granting themselves extra powers to deal with what they deem are an illegal assemblage of cyclists.  The only problem is that without verbal instructions, cyclists passing the car with the flashing lights to its left weren't actually breaking any laws. In fact, without any sort of audible warning, it very well could be the officers that were acting outside of the law.   Given the LAPD's recently professed desire to reach out to cyclists, some are wondering if this means that "cyclists" doesn't refer to group rides and only refers to commuters.  Even if this were the action of a couple of rogue police officers, and at this point we don't have strong information on whether the LAPD is planning on a group ride crackdown, it knocks the luster off last week's announcement of a Bike Working Group.

Secondly, some riders are comparing this incident to the New York Critical Mass rider who was slammed to the road by a member of the NYPD last year.  The officer actually had the nerve to charge the rider with resisting arrest, but because the hole violent incident was caught on camera the charges were dropped and the officer is the one being investigated.  If there's video, or even pictures, from Friday's LAPD v LACM incident, they haven't yet been circulated.

We'll be staying on top of this issue this week.  Be sure to check back for more.