May 28, 2005
Mass Bicycle Ride Leads to Few Arrests
By THOMAS J. LUECK and KAREEM FAHIM
The monthly Critical Mass bicycle ride, which has often been met by a large police presence and many arrests, began more peacefully last night and ended with a brief show of force by the Police Department. The ride included fewer arrests and what appeared at first to be an accommodating tactic by the police, according to people who took part.
By 9:15 p.m., about an hour after riders left Union Square Park and other locations to pedal en masse on the streets and avenues of Lower Manhattan, fewer people had been detained by the police than in past rallies, said Critical Mass supporters who observed the rally.
“We are really excited, and we are hoping this is a good sign,” said Bill DiPaola, the director of Time’s Up!, an advocacy group that is closely allied with the monthly ride, before hearing news of riders’ being detained. Participants in the Critical Mass rally, who maintain that it has no formal organization, say they participate in the monthly ritual to promote pollution-free transportation.
When the riders began gathering about 7 p.m. in Union Square Park, the police appeared to avoid tensions, in contrast with previous rides, like the most recent, on April 29, when there were 34 arrests. Fewer than a dozen officers were in the park, and they could be seen chatting and even joking with participants.
It was unclear how many people took part in the ride, but a group of about 50 cyclists rode away from Union Square shortly after 8 p.m., traveling west on 14th Street and stopping traffic at intersections.
The bikers, along with a group of supporters, gathered less than an hour later at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, at Second Avenue and 10th Street, where they carried their bikes on to the church grounds to avoid blocking the sidewalks and provoking a confrontation with the police.
But soon after the church gathering got under way, more riders approaching on Second Avenue faced off with a group of officers. It was unclear what provoked the confrontation, but three riders were taken into police custody.
Derek Klevitz, 22, one of the riders who was detained, said in a brief interview that he had been knocked off his bike by an officer on a motor scooter, but his account could not be corroborated. Riders said they had seen at least one other cyclist knocked of his bike by an officer.
A spokesman for the Police Department said that officers had “only used necessary force to effect and arrest.”
The police said that 10 of the riders had been arrested.
After surrounding St. Mark’s with police vehicles for 20 minutes, the police dispersed shortly after 9 p.m.