I was one of the many people who were maced for no apparent reason during ‘Critical Mass’ on the 31st of August 2007. I was present but remained calm while I watched other bicyclists being tazered and beaten and told to move out of the way of the police. I was told to move on (southward down LaSalle) by an officer. And as I did I was greeted by another officer macing victims heading up the street. I raised my hand in a peace sign and explained, “I’m just trying to get through.” And with that the officer placed his can of mace inches from my faces and said, “Back up.” He shot a considerable amount of mace in my eyes. I then couldn’t move anywhere because I was blinded. Then I was being push by more police telling me to move on. I was helpless. Luckily someone took my hand and lead me to a safe location where I could regain my vision and rinse my face. This was horrible and uncalled for. I was not a threat in any way and should not have been treated the way I was.
An account by Nathan Szklarski, a commenter on this report of the Minneapolis Police arresting, macing, tazering and beating dozens of Critical Mass participants for no evident reason. The other prominent example of police targeting peaceful Critical Mass participants is that of NYC’s Critical Mass, which has been targeted by the NYC police ever since the 2004 Republican National Convention. Coincidentally or not, next year’s RNC is to be held at Minneapolis, and an anarchist organisation calling themselves pReNC had been planning to protest against the Minneapolis RNC this weekend. Minneapolis Police statements seem to imply that the “infiltration” of CM by pReNC was behind the CM arrests:
It was unclear, [night watch commander] Przynski said, if the first people arrested were affiliated with the convention protest group. The lieutenant also said that a State Patrol helicopter had videotaped part of the event, and that documentation would be included in what police are now reviewing.
Police said they have had little trouble with recent rallies staged by Critical Mass, a loosely organized group that opposes society’s heavy use of motor vehicles.
“We’ve never had a problem with Critical Mass, the rally,” she said. “We agree with them that we need to lessen our dependence on the automobile. Apparently, they had some infiltrators or outsiders who joined the rally tonight. And these outsiders were trying to provoke the officers.”
The adults were arrested on suspicion of rioting, a gross misdemeanor.
I have not seen any reports in which CMers were said to have “rioted” prior to the police treating them as though they were rioters, and after they were provoked, I haven’t seen any evidence for the bikers actually engaging in riot-like behaviour. Can one be arrested on suspicion of being a potential rioter? Even so, how did the police identify the ‘infiltrators’ and target them only as opposed to any other innocent cyclists? Finally, none of this justifies attacking cyclists like Nathan Szklarski, assuming his account is true (and his is far from an isolated incident).
Reports and photos of the incident:
Tony Webster’s photos and report
Star Tribune report
Twin Cities Daily Planet report
Infoshop News report
City Pages’ The Blotter report
An account from someone who was there
Even a non-cycling bystander was arrested?
Photos with a bird’s eye view
WCCO report and video
More eyewitness accounts
A ‘missed connection’ in Minneapolis Craiglist
I will update this post with links to more reports as I find them.