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London Police come over all 'New York' with Critical Mass
15.10.05 by Buffalo Bill

critical mass: peaceful

Critical Mass

Those of you lucky enough to have got tickets to the recent Bicycle Film Festival may have seen a gripping short film called Still We Ride. It recounts the story of New York Critical Mass, which has been the subject of very heavy-handed police action, not to say brutality, since the Republican National Convention was held in the city last year. The scenes featuring mass and apparently arbitrary arrests of cyclists, vandalisation of bicycles by uniformed police, and a total lack of respect for the rights of people to assemble peacefully, which have been guaranteed in the constitution of the USA for over 2 centuries, were disquieting, but not totally shocking.

What has come as a shock is the news that the Metropolitan Police, after more than 10 years of successfully policing the monthly happening using minimum intervention tactics, have issued notice that “these cycle protests are not lawful because no organiser has provided police with the necessary notification. Your participation in this event could render you liable to prosecution.”

It’s a long time since London messengers were a major part of Critical Mass, but it’s worth remembering that the first ever London Critical Mass style happening was in 1992, and marked the death of London bicycle messenger Edward Newstead. Police action to curtail CM could in theory lead to action against the messenger memorial rides that London messengers have organised to visit the spots where people have been killed.

A Critical Mass Communique comments: ‘why are the police wasting time threatening innocent cyclists?’ London Assembly Members Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson have pledged to attend October CM, which will be on 28th October. Jenny Jones has written to Met Commissioner Ian Blair urging him ‘to review this situation and allow Critical Mass to go ahead unimpeded.’ Other sources described the propsed clamp-down as: ‘Just part of the general clamp down on the right to protest, speak, or think differently, by New Labour.’ If the police go through with their threat, the prospect of 100’s of cyclists being arrested for nothing other than riding their bikes looms large. See you there!

Jenny Jones letter to the comissioner of the MET is here.
The letter from the Police to Critical Mass is here.

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