City Critical Mass: Whose Streets?
This morning’s P-I has an account of Friday’s Critical Mass arrests, and this line from the P-I story jumped out at me:
Seattle police were not called to assist and were not involved with the investigation.
I’ve ridden with Critical Mass before, so I know that it’s often monitored by Seattle Police officers who seem to get what the event is about. For example: Last year, for a potential story, I was on a Friday evening Critical Mass ride that decided to head over the Aurora Bridge. The bikers began by occupying every lane of the bridge and riding really slowly, forcing the normal car traffic to become a creeping parade led by cyclists. Seattle Police arrived in short order and used their patrol cars and loudspeakers to force the cyclists into one lane — the far right lane. Then the patrol cars occupied the lane next to the cyclists to protect them, and to keep them in place as car traffic whizzed by in the other lanes. No arrests, no injuries, and the cyclists exited the bridge on the Ballard side a few minutes later, point made.
I doubt the King County Sheriff’s deputies who came upon Critical Mass last Friday were very familiar with the event. And it doesn’t seem that the deputies involved in Friday’s incident made much of an effort to get in touch with their Seattle colleagues about what they were witnessing — either before of after they made two arrests. Which strikes me as strange.
I just spoke to Sean Whitcomb, the Seattle Police spokesman, and he said he’s been looking, but hasn’t yet found any record of communication between the King County Sheriff’s deputies and the Seattle Police department about the incident. He wouldn’t comment on whether the Sheriff’s deputies should have contacted the Seattle Police because he’s still getting to the bottom of the situation.
But he did say that for minor arrests (like a Sheriff’s deputy taking a disruptive drunk on a Seattle bus into custody) it’s not expected that the Seattle Police be notified, while for major incidents (like a Sheriff’s deputy disrupting a Seattle bank robbery) it is expected that the Seattle Police be notified.
Where does Friday’s incident — undercover King County Sheriff’s deputies making two arrests at a monthly Seattle bike protest — fit into this spectrum? Whitcomb wouldn’t say.