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Sunday, July 2, 2006

Critical Mass: Eye-Witness Account No. 3

Posted by on July 2 at 19:25 PM

From Ilsa Govan, a Seattle public school teacher…

As I pulled up on my bike I saw at least two strong-looking men grabbing a guy on his bike and throwing him to the ground. It appeared to be a few angry motorists who were starting a brawl. They then proceeded to punch the guy (Jace I later found out) on the ground. While they were hitting him, Zack and a couple of other guys tried to pull them off. Zack exchanged punches with one of the attackers, defending himself and Jace, and several people continued to try and pull everyone apart.

It was only at that point that I heard the man still hitting Jace say, "Police. You are under arrest. Stop resisting." I remember that exactly, because of the irony of them resisting arrest. By that time, they had Zack on the ground and were continuing to hit him, despite the fact that he was not fighting back. After they announced that they were police, everyone backed off a bit and I saw no resistance from either of the bikers who were arrested.

It was only after they put both bikers in the back of the van that they turned on their sirens and lights. Otherwise, there was no way to identify this as a police vehicle.

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hmmm. I wonder if perhaps the officers were off-duty and returning from a picnic, or something else that might have involved alcohol.....

This is a bit unrelated, but I am an occasional driver who sometimes gets nervous about bike riders and narrow Seattle roads. I was driving on one of those roads today, trying to pass a cyclist, and he flipped me off. A guy on a motorbike behind me pulled up next to me at a stoplight not too far ahead from where we were and said something like hey, next time just push the gas a little harder before you go back over, that's all.
To the motorcycle guy: I don't know who you are, but I would like to say thanks. That was a nice attempt to be delicate in a situation that seems to get crazy way too often.

What's with the he posts blaming the victims? I mean, really, what does your experience with a rude biker have anything to do with a bunch of plain-clothed cops beating down a bicyclist, other than to imply that bikers deserve to beaten by motorists?

please explain.

Every new report I read about this makes my blood boil a bit more. I just have this sneaking suspicion that the two pigs won't be held accountable in the least for their actions.

Seattle police have a hard-on for shooting people yet nothing ever seems to happen as a result so I can't see why a King County officer is going to be taken to task for assaulting a cyclist.

I hate the fact that this sounds so cynical. Why I don't have an issue with police as a whole my faith in the system's ability to hold people accountable has taken a sharp nosedive lately.

Has this assault gotten any press either in the paper or on television?

I am sure the idiot cops will not be held accountable -- just like the moron who drove his motorbike down Post Alley last weekend and used his fine "peacekeeper" skills to get the crap beat out of himself and shoot the hell out of someone else. I happened to be walking through there this weekend -- there is NO WAY there is enough room to ride your motorcycle by the Kell's area, especially if there are a few (admittedly drunken) people wandering around...

Ummm...wasn't the first critical mass frackus with the cops in San Francisco like TEN YEARS AGO? BIG NEWS! BIG NEWS! ten years later Seattle gets it's very own Critical Mass dust up. Sorry guys you're a sausage short of a barbecue on this one.

Seattle has the richest, best educated people in America and you are too lame to hold a protest w/o punching a cop? Instead of a $240 million dollar internet cafe, why didn't you choose to build elevated bike paths?

But that would be actually organizing and accomplishing something instead of whining about how cops get mad when you punch them.

Critical Mass got started in September 1992 in San Francisco so Seattle is like fourteen years behind the times.

Idea 1: Ballot initiative - No one convicted of perjury or of falsifying a police report may serve as a deputized officer within King County.

Idea 2: Get rid of the current asshole (um no I don't think we need to worry about all those specious voter challenges) Republican Prosecutor, up for election this year, and elect someone more likely to take justice seriously.

Idea 1 - Privledged white males might choose another hobby. Riding bikes in Downtown Seattle and feeling self righteous for slugging Asian cops who ask them to obey traffic laws is lame.

Idea 2 - Hold critical mass in Downtown Bellevue - a town that really is anti-bike. See how well the Bellevue cops treat you? Or better yet take critical mass to the Microsoft campus and see what Microsoft security does?

Idea 3 - Stop expecting the rest of us to care about a fourteen year old event from San Francisco. It was interesting in 1992 and raised bike awareness then. Apparently The Stranger did not get the 1992 memo, and thinks Critical Mass is somehow trendy. It's not, Critical Mass was born in the era of "Grunge Fashion" and is no longer news by any definition.

Idea 4 - If you really insist Critical Mass is some big new thing, you might check out this cool new event called "Burning Man". I've heard it's super radical and alternative. How about sending a Stranger Reporter to find out about it!
I can't find anything about it in the dailies.

I think some of you are missing the point big time. The point is that police cannot go around assaulting the peaceful civilians they are PAID TO PROTECT. How you feel about Critical Mass and bikers in general is totally irrelevant.

Seattle has the richest, best educated people in America and you are too lame to hold a protest w/o punching a cop? Instead of a $240 million dollar internet cafe, why didn't you choose to build elevated bike paths?

But that would be actually organizing and accomplishing something instead of whining about how cops get mad when you punch them.

First, elevated bike paths would defeat the point. Bicycles are considered vehicles with as much right to the road as cars. We pay the taxes on those streets same as motorists. You've just got your panties in a wad because someone is asking you to SHARE and you're stuck in a 1st grade mentality. MINE MINE MINE.

Second, the KC sheriffs were the ones assaulting people, not the bikers. The only reason a biker threw a punch was because the police were dressed up as thugs and never once identified themselves. Maybe you're just jealous because Jace has friends who stand up for him and everyone you know would be delighted to see you get your face scraped against the pavement? Just a thought.

Seattle Cops manhandle street people and homeless people all the time. That's not the point. Homeless people downtown and on Broadway are a nuisance.

When priviledged white males want to ride their expensive mountain bikes downtown and drink beer with teenagers, it's the priviledged white male's right to stop traffic and punch cops.

A nation-wide system of bike paths including elevated routes through industrial areas would defeat the purpose.

It would make the United States too much like the European nations that installed nation wide bike transportation routes in the 1970's. (including elevated routes)

Much better to go on Critical Mass rides through gentrified Belltown to protest police brutality. At least my photo will be in The Stranger and Eli Sanders will write about how oppressed I am.

The point is that police cannot go around assaulting the peaceful civilians they are PAID TO PROTECT.

I've asked this several times and nobody from CM seems to answer, but I'll ask again: Why don't you coordinate with SPD and have them handle traffic and safety issues?

What, if any, effort has CM made to build a constructive partnership with local law enforcement?

We pay the taxes on those streets same as motorists.

I'm sorry, how much monorail tax did bikers pay? I've had to pay hundreds of dollars. Why shouldn't we ask bicyclists to register their bikes like cars and use the fees from tabs to fund pro-bike improvements to transit (more bike racks on buses) as well as streets? Does CM have any plans to leverage their public events to gain signatures for an initiative to enact mandatory bike tabs?

First, elevated bike paths would defeat the point.

Have you ever been to amsterdam? They have roads, trains/street cars, sidewalks, and extensive bike paths. Their bike paths are often integrated into the roads, however they are much more complete than our "bike lanes", and also branch off and form their own network as well. they even have their own traffic control in areas (lights, stop signs, etc.) Building efficient, sensible roads/paths for all kinds of commuters (motorized, bicycle, pedestrian) isn't a bad idea and doesn't in any way suggest that bicycles cannot also use surface streets.

whats frustrating about this whole thing is that i WANT to support bicyclists but this kind of militant "we're taking the road by force" mentality that insists upon belittling anyone who isn't 100% in lockstep really makes it hard to get behind it. whats the point?

Charles, (a) CM has no organizational structure, and hence there's no one with the authority to organize on behalf of the rides, and (b) CM has a good relationship with SPD. Generally they either help out the Mass, or turn a blind eye to it (including corking). Occasionally they step in when the Mass goes too far, and the riders listen.

These were King County Deputies, not SPD, which is probably why this turned into a bloody mess.

And again, CM has no organizational structure (or well-defined goals, for that matter), so you're barking up the wrong tree when you're asking for plans from CM.

Lastly, I don't know where you're seeing the "we're taking the road by force mentality." Cyclists have a right to the lane, especially when safety is at issue. The worst that happens when a cyclist asserts his rights, or even breaks the law, is that a driver is inconvenienced for a few minutes. When a driver breaks the law, gets angry, or is simply inattentive, people get killed. That asymmetry is a bit disconcerting when you're the one on the bike.


Thanks for your thoughtful reply. From the account I read earlier about SPD and CM on a trip across the Ballard Bridge (where SPD drove in left lane with bicyclists in right for safety), and from what I have seen when I've been downtown as CM goes by, SPD seems like a great partner. I guess the impetous behind my whole issue is 1) why not make a formalized relationship with SPD and have them at *every* event (get their bicycle cops or something) and 2) where was SPD when the incident with KC officers occured? Wouldn't having SPD there every time have prevented this WHOLE THING in the first place?

I kind of understand the whole it-is-what-it-is pseudo sponteneous nebula that seems to characterize CM, but it doesnt seem at all practical when it comes to things like working within the law or looking out for the safety of the riders and the general public.

I would have thought that if this has been going on for ten years, some of these basic things would have been sorted out long ago, even in spite of no formalized ogranizational structure for the group.

In regards to my comment on militarism, the hundreds, literally, of comments on SLOG about this have seemed, to me, to be pretty fanatical. I mean I understand the fact that flamers and trolls will inevitably draw people into hyperbole, but I kind of get the feeling that both parties are probably partly responsible for what happened. This goes beyond the fact that its pretty irresponsible to put hundreds of bicyclists on the street in one big group without really thinking how you're going to address safety short of arbitrarily "corking" streets.

Cyclists have a right, absolutely, but if safety was really as important as it should be CM would get over its nebulous power vaccum and address safety for safety's sake and not start using cyclists as human shields to force traffice to stop.

Rather, it seems like the whole attitude revolves around a "we're going to clog up the street and you just have to deal--BIKE POWER!" thing that, especially in groups, might lead to people being, well, kinda on a power trip. Did the dude who got tackled provoke the cops? Did the cops over-react? Could it be both? That being what it is, if things don't change, this kind of stuff will happen again and that just seems kinda... meh

Unlike many of the blowhards posting, I actually know the guy who was arrested for assault (Zack) and I can say that he's far from the radical law breaker that the law'n'order types are portraying him to be. He's a mellow grad student whose only "crime" is participating in a bike rally.

The fact that he saw that huge 250lb+ gorilla pounding on his fellow rider and stepped in to help makes him a hero in my book. I wonder how many people would have the courage to stand up to someone like that?

Anyhow, as a society, we have nothing to fear from civil disobedience - a far greater threat are the small subset of police officers who feel that they have the right to beat the hell out of anyone who crosses them, and who hide behind their badges to avoid the consequences.

The drivers out there are annoyed because a large amount of riders choose to shun the traffic laws. The Bikers feel like (quite correctly I would add) that a majority of drivers have their head up their ass and don't pay attention to whats going on around them.

Everyones got a right to the road, but critical mass isn't really making drivers more aware; From the drivers perspective, all they see is a huge group, blatently disregarding traffic signals, and telling drivers that are impatient to fuck off. What would happen if a bunch of people in cars started driving on the bike trail to raise awareness for drivers rights? Everyone has a right to the road, and drivers and cyclsts need to respect that. Critical Mass isn't doing anything to further the cause of Seattle bikers.

I have gleaned these facts so far:
Cops feel justified in beating up anyone they want anytime they want and get away with it because they are cops. I wonder if they would have enjoyed beating up a woman as much? Perhaps they would have liked to throw a rape in too while they were at it.
We as a society don't need undercover cops. They spend more time beating up society's contributing members than they do catching drug dealers and organized crime thugs. They must choose that particular type of police work because they fit in with the criminal element so well. Of course, in order to do their job, they must participate in criminal offenses too. I wonder if I would be justified in shooting an undercover cop caught in the act of committing a crime?
Motorists do not give bike riders or motocyclists any respect and feel no remorse when they run them off the road. That is why Critical Mass exists. It hasn't stopped being timely. In fact, it makes more sense now than it did when it started in San Francisco years ago. Pollution is worse, gridlock is worse and motorists are ruder. They even attack each other. The bigger vehicle wins on the road. Just try using a lane in a Honda if a Humvee driver wants it.
Why can't safe biking lanes be built? Why can't motorists share the road? Why do cops get to act like thugs and not be fired or arrested themselves? I no longer have any respect for law enforcement in King county after this incident and those bikers have my complete sympathy. And no- I'm not some radical feminist biker. I'm the chick in the Honda sharing the road.

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