Rider Report from Last Week’s LAPD/LACM Confrontation: It Was All Bad News

Responding to a tweet asking for any first hand accounts, John Clark sent along the following first hand Rider Report from last Friday’s Critical Mass.  It’s interesting to see what someone in the ride, not involved first hand in any confrontation with the LAPD thought of what was happening as it was happening.

The ride was
fine up until we hit Hollywood and Highland and had LAPD waiting at the
intersection.  When we rolled up I stopped in front of "Ripley’s Believe It or Not" and waited until the group started riding down Hollywood
towards Western.  I then noticed to cops on my left (the ones from the
video.)  As I turned to roll down the street one of the officers was
already in the middle of the street looking around with his hand on his
baton.  He looked right at me and I’m thinking he is about to grab me.
I’m not a small guy so he quickly re-though this as I looked him in the

I continued but turned around to see if he actually was going
to grab someone.  I watched him grab the girl with the white helmet
who has her hands behind her back during the kicking in the video.  He
grabbed her pretty bad so I stopped and starting walking back towards
them to see why he was doing what he was doing. I re-thought that as
I could see it was going to get ugly.  During all of the grabbing not
one cop said move, leave, or stop. 

The Mass continued down
Hollywood.  When we got to Vine I made a small group stop at the red
light as cars where already moving through the intersection.  I was
yelling at people to stay out of the street and moments later two LAPD
cars swerve right in front of of us and jump out with hands already on
batons ready to do I don’t know what.  I continued past the cops who
where blocking the street to continue.  Me and one other person (Yeah
1 out of 400 plus) ended up on the other side of Vine.  At this point
I made a right… and was completely by myself.  I then made my way to
the start of the Peoples rRde to find my roommate and friends and go
back to our house.

From what I could tell  some of the officers where
laughing and others where out to power trip and had no clue of what to
do…It was all bad news …

  • Roadblock

    The LAPD very obviously has an issue with mass group rides. I’d like to point out as I did last night at the LABAC meeting, that in fact LAPD is adding to a vicious cycle by treating mass cyclists as outlaw crimminals… The root cause of mass bike rides is the feeling of safety in numbers. I know from personal experience that getting harassed or hit by a car does little to motivate the LAPD to action, which in turn makes me feel less safe out there and more inclined to ride with others such as critical mass which in turn pisses off more LAPD. Of course seeing LAPD treat us like outlaws the motoring public – usually on the fence about mass ride – sees us in a bad light and this perpetuates the cycle of disrespect.

    Imagine if LAPD moved to protect cyclists in every way possible. Celebrating bicycle riding… helping the image of cycling, aggressively citing careless
    drivers. More people would ride, commute, and generally increase safety on the streets. It’s a win for the cops. They’d have less traffic crimes to deal with it.

  • Roadblock

    In other words help “normalize” cycling as a safe valid mode of transportation and we’ll see the group rides melt away….

  • David Galvan

    Can someone explain to me what possible motivation LAPD would have to behave this way, practically speaking? I’m happy to admit my naivete’. I just don’t get it.

    Are they hoping that picking off and detaining a few straggling riders will deter them from participating in mass rides again? If so, it seems it would only have a minimal impact, as only those few riders detained would likely be deterred, and the anger generated in other riders and viewers who saw the brutality would perhaps inspire more people to do the mass rides anyway as a form of protest.

    If “corking” is technically illegal as it is practiced in the critical mass rides, under what conditions would it be legal? There are photos of Tom LeBonge doing it. . . so I’m wondering if it would be considered legal if the critical mass rides applied for some kind of permit to do one of these scheduled rides.

  • Roadblock, I thought your comments last night were right on target. We ride Critical Mass to celebrate cycling as a normal mode of transportation and a liberating lifestyle decision. The more “normal” cycling becomes, the need to demonstrate it as such will decrease. If the LAPD helps us normalize cycling, their need to police large group rides will decrease as well. The solution is definitely to work together, not oppose each other.

  • @ David Galvan

    What motivates some LAPD officers act like thugs? I’d venture a guess that it is their own personal political orientation that leads them to act like stromtroopers. It’s no secret that law enforcement jobs attract rightwing nutjobs, GI Joe wannabes, and that weird guy in high school that always reading Guns & Ammo magazine. They like to act out their fantasy beating bicycle riding hippies to make their lives meaningful.

    It’s the same root cause for most police brutality: You are recruiting from a pool of people that includes a subset that harbors rightwing paramilitary fantasies. No amount of training will correct this… only better screening before hiring can prevent things like this from happening.

  • bzcat… you hitting on some real pay dirt in there… what I don’t believe is that it’s impossible to reach the right wing and find common ground in this cycling thing… We need to work to find that common message. We need to find a way to frame the argument so that the GI Joe wannabes join this struggle to become independent and self sufficient. I invite the rightwing to pull up it’s boot straps and join me in my independence.

  • Broadview

    “We ride Critical Mass to celebrate cycling as a normal mode of transportation and a liberating lifestyle decision.”

    This categorization of LACM is a little bit less than honest. I have been on Critical Mass rides in the past and if we are going to have any meaningful relationship with law enforcment we need to take a hard look at ourselves. Regardless of what LACM may stand for, the truth of the matter is that it is run like a party on wheels, a rolling rave so to speak. I’ve run the red lights, rode the circle of death, raised my bike, crossed that center line into oncoming traffic plenty of times…AND I WAS NOT ALONE BY A LONG SHOT. IF I get stopped I totally deserve a citation (not get slammed though). We drink, we smoke out, we cause noise and totally disregard traffic laws. While none of this excuses the LAPD lets at least call a spade a spade and take some responcibility for our collective action.

  • Broadview, not everyone rides the ride for the same reason. Furthermore, to say that we all drink, smoke out, and “party” on the ride is incorrect. Also, in my summation of the theme of Critical Mass, I did not deny or confirm that any of the things you mention happen. You’re talking about activities, I’m referring to theme. They are two different things.

    You also assume that every one who rides crosses the center line, and that’s also false. A lot of us feel very uncomfortable doing that so we stay to the right. I also don’t think we “totally disregard traffic laws”. We do some things for the safety of the group, but people who are “totally disregarding traffic laws” are doing so at their own risk. It’s a large group but in the end you’re responsible for your own actions. So when I run red lights with a group and a cop stops me, that’s on me, not the group, even if the whole group did it. I don’t HAVE to do everything the group does. And even if I do run a red light to stay with the group, I don’t deserve a beating for it.

  • @Galvan “Can someone explain to me what possible motivation LAPD would have to behave this way, practically speaking?”

    L.A. streets , by their design, tell us that bikes and bicyclists are not important, not legitimate. Police are human and pick up on this… they perceive bicyclists as counterculture – as getting in the way of the mainstream cars. They often devalue and harass bicyclists… once in a while it gets documented on film.

    Not all police treat bicyclists badly. Certainly not all of them kick us like is seen in the video.

    (I explored this some at the eco-village blog: http://wp.me/ppgyR-fJ )

  • Taylor Fitz-Gibbon

    Whats wrong with a party on wheels? The LAPD needs to respect LACM’s power in numbers and just relinquish control.


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