Critical Mass Bikers Ride Again!
By Chris Flash
[September 2007] On August 31, more than 100 bike riders gathered at Union Square Park for the monthly Critical Mass bike ride taking place on the last Friday of each month.
From about 7pm on, bikers gathered on the north side of the park along East 17th Street. As their numbers grew, bikers were entertained with a performance by the Puppet State Players. Standing by were a large number of cops, also waiting for the ride to begin, in order to pick off passing bike riders for any perceived infraction, no matter how slight, real or imagined.
As a result of long running police harassment, Critical Mass ride organizers have had to come up with clever methods to circumvent the cops. This has included splitting the ride into several small groups of seemingly unconnected bike riders and then re-gathering at other locations to resume the ride. To bypass cops stationed at Union Square Park, Critical Mass riders have even taken their bikes into the subway there and re-emerged elsewhere to keep riding.
This night, Critical Mass ride organizers had another surprise for the cops. Word was quietly spread among the gathered bike riders that the ride would begin that night from Pier 57 along the Hudson River, outside the Marine and Aviation building.
According to Bill DiPaolo, director of Times Up, the group that promotes pollution-free transportation and helps to organize Critical Mass rides in New York City, this site was chosen to commemorate the third anniversary of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, during which political activists, protestors, Critical Mass riders and others caught in plastic dayglo netting by police were detained and held for several days in this building, a former truck depot, without due process, despite court orders obtained for their release. As a result of the mass illegal detentions, the Marine and Aviation building was called “Guantanamo on the Hudson” by activists, referring to the concentration camp run by the US at its base in Cuba, where torture and sensory deprivation have been inflicted upon detainees held there.
Slowly but surely, the Union Square bikers made their way to Pier 57, with no police accompaniment. The ride began from there at about 9pm, with bikers passing many of the locations where arrests of Critical Mass riders had taken place during the Republican Convention. As they usually do on their rides, bikers stopped several times along the way and raised their bikes high over their heads to cheers from bystanders.
Critical Mass riders told the SHADOW that no one was arrested and that no cops were seen
anywhere along the ride. After the latest Critical Mass ride, Bill of Times Up told the SHADOW: “It is inspiring that people in the bike community keep coming out and stay strong, despite police harassment. Every year, biking is on the increase in New York City.”
[Critical Mass rides will continue to take place, with riders meeting on the north side of Union Square Park at 7pm, on the last Friday of every month. From there, who knows where they will go?]