50 Bike Activists Arrested

Tuesday, August 15 -- At 6:30 PM, approximately fifty participants from the bicycle activist group Critical Mass were arrested underneath the Santa Monica freeway, at the intersection of Flower and 18th Streets. It was the largest arrest that has occurred so far during the Democratic National Convention.

The ride began at 5:45 PM and proceeded through downtown streets without incident. About 200 participants rode their bikes en masse to demonstrate simply, as one rider said, that "bikes have a right to be on the street with cars, that's all."

Participants who escaped arrest said that the bike ride was scrupulously legal in light of the overwhelming police presence in the downtown area, obeying all traffic laws and stopping at red lights. They claimed that police officers on motorcycles penned them on Flower Street, a one-way street, traveling the wrong way. Some claimed to have been knocked down by the motorcycles. At that point, they were ordered to get up against the fence and put their hands up. About 150 riders rode off onto side streets and alleys, while fifty were stopped and arrested.

As onlookers gathered to watch the arrests, which occurred a block away from Patriotic Hall where the Independent Media Center and the Shaodw Convention are being housed, at least two hundred relief officers arrived and lined the streets in full riot gear, many with tear gas and rubber bullet guns. There were no physical altercations, and nobody resisted arrest.

Ariela Gottshachlk, a Los Angeles activist who had particpated in the ride and evaded the officers, explained that she "went off into an alley and they didn't stop me. I just can't understand why people should be arrested for going down a one-way street if they were forced to go there by cops." Police would not announce the charges, and cordoned off the block as a crime scene as onlookers chanted "Ride a bike, go to jail!"

Those arrested were detained by police on the corner of 18th Street and Flower for about 3 hours, causing a tense standoff to ensue between police and protesters. A small but vocal group continued to call for the bike riders' release, while waves of heavily armed police units continued to arrive at the scene. Eventually, the handcuffed riders were taken away in school buses for processing. The Independent Media Center reports that so far, police have not revealed what charges, if any, will be brought against the arrested bicyclists.

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