Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Sacramento Critical Mass report

Expand Messages
  • Jason Meggs
    Fellow bicyclists: On its second anniverary ride, May 2, 2003, large numbers of police followed small groups of bicyclists throughout the City of Sacramento
    Message 1 of 4 , May 5, 2003
    • 0 Attachment
      Fellow bicyclists:

      On its second anniverary ride, May 2, 2003, large numbers of police
      followed small groups of bicyclists throughout the City of Sacramento
      during the latest attempt at a Critical Mass community bicycle ride there.

      The bicyclists tried an interesting experiment of dispersing in
      different directions. The police, believe it or not, followed even
      individual bicyclists, frequently outnumbering them! I was followed while
      walking my bicycle, as I dared not ride an inch with so many police
      following me.

      How do others feel about this outrageous harassment?

      Below is an email I've just sent to a public email list for Sacramento
      Critical Mass.

      Sincerely,

      Jason Meggs

      ---------- Forwarded message ----------
      Date: Mon, 5 May 2003 23:10:56 -0400 (EDT)
      From: Jason Meggs <jmeggs@...>
      Reply-To: sacramentomass@yahoogroups.com
      To: sacramentomass@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [sacramentomass] Hey Sacramento Critical Mass!

      [THIS IS A PUBLIC LIST. FEEL FREE TO REPLY PRIVATELY]

      Hi there!

      I am writing to find out what people's individual experiences were during
      the last Sacramento Critical Mass ride.

      Last Friday's ride was the second anniversary of the latest Critical Mass
      effort in Sacramento (as far as I know!). Earlier masses (as early as
      1993) were reportedly put out of existence by police harassment, even
      though there were hundreds of riders at one point. Speaking as someone
      who was followed during last Friday's ride by multiple squad cars and
      about five bicycle cops (and probably more police than I could see or
      identify, but with no helicopter detectable) even as I *WALKED* on the
      sidewalk, at times alone or with just a few other cyclists, it's not hard
      for me to understand that this could be true. From past experience I knew
      it was not safe for me to ride an inch while being followed by those
      officers.

      It's a terrible thing when the government chooses to break its own laws
      for the overt purpose of suppressing its citizens from even the most
      peaceful and well-intended acts such as bicycling. Those of you who
      continue to assert your right to ride a bicycle in California's capitol
      city, Sacramento, are truly brave and have my utmost respect.

      I have heard rumors that some number of participants were cited, and I
      happened to witness the tail end of one scene where one woman was taken
      away in handcuffs and another was cited and released.

      * WAS ANYONE ELSE CITED OR ARRESTED?

      * DOES ANYONE WISH TO FILE COMPLAINTS WITH THE CITY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE?

      * IS ANYONE CALLING A MEETING TO DISCUSS WAYS OF STOPPING THIS ABUSE?

      A recent News and Review article, with two photos, discussed the events of
      the March ride where a young mother was violently arrested and injured,
      reportedly for asking a question.

      You can find that and many more past stories, links, and other information
      public Sacramento Critical Mass email list at a website BCLU maintains:

      http://www.bclu.org/sactocm/

      Sincerely,

      Jason Meggs

      =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
      Jason Meggs
      Bicycle Civil Liberties Union
      P.O. Box 15071
      Berkeley, CA 94712-6071

      http://www.bclu.org/

      Phone: (510) 816-BIKE
      =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

      P.S. Some news articles from a year ago, still rather relevant:


      >From http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/3120672p-4142021c.html

      Bicyclists claim Sacramento police harass them on rides
      By Matthew Barrows -- Bee Staff Writer
      Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Wednesday, June 5, 2002

      SACRAMENTO -- A group of area wants $11 million and an apology from
      Sacramento police for what they say is a policy of harassing cyclists at
      monthly gatherings.

      A lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court alleges police have targeted the
      first-Friday-of-the-month Critical Mass rides by confiscating bicycles,
      issuing false citations and using excessive force.

      "The riders violated no laws, engaged in no illegal activities and harmed
      no one, but the police harass them like they were a criminal
      enterprise," said Berkeley-based attorney Larry Hildes, who represents the
      cyclists.

      Police have said tickets and arrests have come after bikers taunted and
      swerved in front of motorists. Tickets have been issued for obstructing
      traffic, running red lights and excessive noise.

      The Critical Mass rides, which began in May 2001, start at the Capitol and
      usually wind through downtown and midtown. Riders said say the goal is to
      show biking is a cleaner, healthier alternative to motor vehicles.

      ===========================================
      Next article:

      >From the Sacramento Bee, Monday, October 29, 2001
      http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/1085995p-1149157c.html


      Back-Seat Driver: Bicyclists unite to remove their
      cloak of invisibility

      By Matthew Barrows Bee Staff Writer (Published
      Oct. 29, 2001)



      About a month ago, the Back-seat Driver shelled
      out $100 for a used road bike -- a real bargain
      considering its special powers. You see, the bike
      is invisible.

      Skeptical? Just ask the woman in the silver
      Volkswagen who was stopped at an intersection on
      H Street the other day. She pulled out in front of
      me as if I wasn't even there.

      Still not convinced? Talk to the guy in the
      red Honda. He parked his car on 21st Street and
      opened the door at the exact moment I was pedaling
      past. Obviously, he couldn't see me.

      Homeowners pile leaves in the bike lanes; garbage
      collectors leave massive green bins; and some of
      the laziest parallel parkers on the planet leave
      their fenders jutting out so far it's impossible
      to stay in the lane.

      It's as if my bike, and others like it, doesn't
      exist.

      Other area bicyclists, who express similar
      concerns, have taken to the streets to raise public
      awareness. Tired of being shoved around and ignored
      by motorists, the group has organized a ride called
      Critical Mass that gathers on the first Friday of
      the month for its own show of force.

      The theory is that if enough bikers ride together,
      the balance of power on the roadway shifts, and
      the cyclists' message -- a cleaner, healthier way
      to get around -- is thrust into the public eye.

      One group in particular has been sitting up and
      taking notice -- the police.

      At the September event, for example, Sacramento
      police issued 12 tickets with one arrest.

      The rides have attracted 25 to 60 riders who
      pedal en masse through downtown and midtown
      Sacramento. Rides usually begin on the north steps
      of the Capitol after 5 p.m.

      Police officers say there's nothing wrong with
      demonstrating, but cyclists who break traffic laws
      will not be tolerated. And they say they intend to
      maintain order.

      But cyclists claim the police have been
      heavy-handed, citing riders for infractions as
      frivolous as failing to signal 100 feet before
      a turn.

      "The idea of holding your arm out for 100 feet while
      trying to ride a bicycle is just not reasonable,"
      said organizer Jason Meggs.

      Meggs said he got a citation for not riding in
      the bike lane on J Street, a road that has no bike
      lane. Another rider was cited for riding without
      a headlight when it wasn't dark.

      At the Oct. 5 ride, no fewer than 11 police vehicles
      -- including bicycles, squad cars, motorcycles and
      a patrol wagon -- trailed the procession. At the
      very end, a police helicopter joined the chase for
      good measure.

      And what did the police face?

      A couple of guys in khaki pants and button-down
      shirts could have been trouble, and the biker
      leading the pack was a real rough customer: a
      5-year-old girl with curly blond hair who was on
      a tandem bike with her daddy.

      (While not Al Capone, she looked as if she could
      throw quite a hissy in Toys R Us.)

      The police presence was in reaction to earlier rides
      when some cyclists reportedly caused disruptions
      by taunting motorists, running red lights and
      deliberately swerving in front of traffic. But on
      this ride the pack was well-behaved, stopping at
      every stop sign and signaling a half a block ahead
      of turns, a mocking jab at previous citations.

      In the end, no tickets were issued, a first for a
      Sacramento Critical Mass event.

      The October ride also succeeded at getting
      motorists' attention, not so much for the small pack
      of cyclists, but for the mass of police vehicles
      following behind.

      Visibility, it seems, comes with a price.


      ===========================================
      Next article:

      >From the Sacramento News and Review,
      October 18, 2001

      http://www.newsreview.com/

      Sidelines

      Easy riders
      By Cosmo Garvin and Matt Raymond

      In a marked change from previous Critical Mass bicycle rides (see
      "Intimidation with a Smile," Capital Bites, SN&R, September 13; and
      "Condition Critical," SN&R, October 4), harmony prevailed between police
      and riders during the October 5 event.

      Dozens of cyclists move as a slow pack through town on the first Friday of
      each month to make a statement for alternative transportation. Sacramento
      Police in the past have responded to each Critical Mass by handing out
      many traffic tickets. But this month, not a single citation was issued.

      "We were very happy with Lieutenant [Jim] Maccoun's much more
      conscientious approach," said Jason Meggs, director of the Bicycle Civil
      Liberties Union. "To go from [about a dozen citations] last month to zero
      citations is ... a great leap forward."

      When asked what brought about the change in tactics, Lieutenant Maccoun
      said that after speaking with Meggs, it was decided within the Metro Unit
      that, "We want them to be able to exercise their First Amendment rights."

      Last month's ride was stopped in the first block because one cyclist was
      playing a stereo, but the stereo was ignored this month. Maccoun said
      police have discretion to not issue citations for violating ordinances
      like the city's ban on amplified music.

      Maccoun would still like to see Critical Mass apply for a parade permit,
      something Meggs has resisted on principle, noting that the clog of cars
      during rush hour needs no permit. But both sides seem to be adopting a
      less confrontational stance.

      Police and riders even chatted amiably together at a park after the ride.
      As Meggs put it, "We've developed a trusting relationship."

      ---

      Here's an earlier article, from October 4, 2001:

      >
      > http://www.newsreview.com/
      >
      >
      > Sidelines
      >
      > Condition critical By Matt Raymond
      >
      > As alternative transportation advocates take to the
      > streets of Sacramento on bicycles again on October
      > 5 for the monthly Critical Mass ride, organizers
      > hope to avoid contentious clashes with police that
      > have characterized the last two monthly rides (see
      > "Intimidation with a Smile," Capital Bites, SN&R,
      > September 13).
      >
      > The ride, which is designed to highlight the
      > need to create a transportation system that
      > encourages cycling and other non-polluting means
      > of transportation, follows a 5:30 p.m. rally at
      > the Capitol.
      >
      > Event organizer Jason Meggs of the Bicycle Civil
      > Liberties Union said the Critical Mass rides in
      > Sacramento have developed into a battle over civil
      > rights. He said the numerous citations handed out by
      > Sacramento Police Department officers on September
      > 7 amounts to harassment.
      >
      > Meggs' assurance that bicyclists in Critical Mass
      > rides always do their best to follow the rules
      > of the road is accompanied by a demand that the
      > police "do their part by not giving us incredibly
      > excessive, intolerant treatment."
      >
      > Such attention has included citations for not having
      > bike lights ("It was before dark," Meggs said), and
      > not riding in the bike lane ("There's no bike lane
      > on that street," he counters). While most of the
      > citations for the August 3 ride were thrown out of
      > court, there are 12 "impeding the flow of traffic"
      > citations still pending from the September 7 ride,
      > which police don't expect to have thrown out.
      >
      > "We don't mind them protesting," Sergeant Daniel
      > Hahn insisted, "but bikes are like cars, and if you
      > run a red light or block traffic, you'll be cited."
      >
      > Police want Critical Mass riders to get a parade
      > permit, which would allow officers to control
      > traffic along the ride. But Meggs thinks that is
      > unfair treatment.
      >
      > "When rush hour traffic gets a parade permit,"
      > he said, "then they can come and ask us."
      >
      > Are bikes like cars? According to the BCLU, that's
      > an oversimplification. "How bikes use the streets
      > is different from the way cars use them," Meggs
      > said. And if they are the same, he wonders why the
      > state doesn't give more than the pittance it does
      > to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
      >
      > "If you design for bikes," he explained, "you're
      > designing for a lot of other things," like less
      > congestion, less sprawl, less reliance on fossil
      > fuels, and healthier citizens.
      >
      > Bikes should have as much right to the road as
      > cars, he said, and if convincing the Sacramento
      > Police Department of that requires filing a police
      > harassment lawsuit against the city--something
      > Meggs says he's pursuing--so be it.
      >






      To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
      sacramentomass-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com



      Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
    • Jared M. Dunne
      Hi Jason (and all) ... Why not just keep together and keep biking? Is biking illegal in Sacramento? How were they harassing you? From both my experiences with
      Message 2 of 4 , May 6, 2003
      • 0 Attachment
        Hi Jason (and all)

        > On its second anniverary ride, May 2, 2003, large numbers of police
        > followed small groups of bicyclists throughout the City of Sacramento
        > during the latest attempt at a Critical Mass community bicycle ride there.
        >
        > The bicyclists tried an interesting experiment of dispersing in
        > different directions. The police, believe it or not, followed even
        > individual bicyclists, frequently outnumbering them! I was followed while
        > walking my bicycle, as I dared not ride an inch with so many police
        > following me.

        Why not just keep together and keep biking? Is biking illegal in Sacramento?
        How were they harassing you?

        From both my experiences with Critical Mass in Chicago and SF, the police
        are just "escorting" the ride. From what I have noticed in the Chicago
        rides, the police just come see the Mass off and then disappear after a few
        blocks. I've seen them take copies of proposed maps. Other than one
        incident (in one precinct of Chicago) that I have heard about, the Police
        are not a problem in general. I have heard of people be ticketed when the
        Mass rides on roads that bikes are not permitted (Lake Shore Drive).... This
        last mass in Chicago, we had several police (that randomly encountered the
        mass) block intersections for us.... IMHO that takes the fun out of it.. =)

        I'm sure other CCM "veterans" might have more to say about this than I, as I
        have only been on 3-4 CCM rides

        Jared-
      • Martin Lund
        just as a point of fact, it should be noted that in recent and not-so-recent CM history, massers around the country have been ticketed, arressted, pepper
        Message 3 of 4 , May 6, 2003
        • 0 Attachment
          just as a point of fact, it should be noted that in
          recent and not-so-recent CM history, massers around
          the country have been ticketed, arressted, pepper
          sprayed, and hit by police officers. it is true that
          these incidents are rare in light of the broad scope
          and frequency of CM rides but they should not be over
          looked. in so far as dealing with police and thier
          various interactions with critical mass there are many
          methods, some discussed to death. for me it comes down
          to a few simple things:

          you can choose to ride within the confines what you
          understand to be the law or outside of those confines.
          in *either* case you should be prepared to be
          potentially hassled, ticketed, and or arrested.
          subsequently you can, and in my mind should, contest,
          in court, any tickets you feel were undeserved. in
          addition any brutality, excessive force or harrassment
          by police officers should be reported not just to the
          local precincts but to the mayor's office and the
          local press.

          happy riding.

          __________________________________
          Do you Yahoo!?
          The New Yahoo! Search - Faster. Easier. Bingo.
          http://search.yahoo.com
        • dankliman@pol.net
          ... In both cities, this followed long battles with the authorities as well as mass arrests (115 in July of 97 in SF, and 27 in September and November of 98 in
          Message 4 of 4 , May 6, 2003
          • 0 Attachment
            > From both my experiences with Critical Mass in Chicago and SF, the
            > police are just "escorting" the ride.

            In both cities, this followed long battles with the authorities as well as
            mass arrests (115 in July of 97 in SF, and 27 in September and November of
            98 in Chicago).

            > I have heard of people be ticketed when the Mass rides on roads that
            > bikes are not permitted (Lake Shore Drive)

            In Chicago's case, this followed numerous incursions onto limited access
            highways, practically every month, that were more or less tolerated by the
            authorities, although looked upon with more and more annoyance. Finally,
            the warning was put out that this would no longer be tolerated -- a
            warning that was ignored. From my understanding, the ticket on the last
            highway incursion was subsequently dropped with the admonition that "we
            don't mind you riding on the roads, but we draw the line at the highways."
            Keep in mind that the Chicago mass is on par with the SF mass in terms of
            numbers.

            Police action varies from town to town. In SF and Chicago, there were
            major crackdowns that led to prolonged battles and there now is an
            acceptance. In St. Louis, the police generally ignored us, but corked
            traffic if they happened to be in the area. In the recent Alameda mass,
            police tagged along in cars, on motorbikes, and on bicycles to make sure
            everything went OK, as well as having undercover cops on the ride (they
            identified themselves after the ride) to get the flavor of the thing and
            declared that they were fine with the mass as it was. In Melbourne and
            Sydney, cops consider themselves massers and ride along, just in uniform,
            participate on the lists, and try to hang back (so they say) to allow the
            non-police massers to cork and self police to the extent possible.

            Police crackdowns with mass arrests in Portland and Minneapolis/St. Paul
            backfired and brought out even more people, pumping numbers to new highs.
            In Portland, it even brought out a more aggressive crew than had been
            there before!

            In Sacramento, if the reports are accurate, it appears that a concerted
            police presence is being executed to shut down the mass. This had proved
            successful with the of the Chicago Art Institute CM (a much more aggro
            affair than the current Daley Plaza rides) and other masses that I can't
            name at present.

            Of course, rides that claim to be CM but are protest rides for one thing
            or another are subject to the same problems as other protests, including
            police repression, but that is a whole other issue.

            Dan
            Oakland, CA
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.