Another day, another miraculous win for the #OccupyWallStreet movement happening here in NYC. It’s an amazing thing that us New Yorkers can go check it out at any time, listen to what’s being talked about, and form our own opinions without the filter of the press or pundits. Americans often make the mistake of only wanting leaders -or even whole movements in this case- who are without fault or anything disagreeable. Which is a real shame because it’s mistakes, diversity and tolerance that makes a democracy strong and communities great places to be a normal human. The more momentum the protests gain, the more people in the same space all mean that logistical issues become more complicated and more important. And an ideal solution to keeping food, supplies and people moving has emerged: the bicycle.
Elly Blue on Grist.org has written a great article on the history and specifics of what has made the bicycle an ideal vehicle for supporting protests, as well as emergency situations. It’s almost astoundingly simple and obvious to anyone who rides a bike for transportation in a city, but it’s a serious wake up call for anyone else looking to empower their ability to participate in social movements, beyond the pleasures of a group ride.
But what works for the cops also works for demonstrators: On two wheels, you’re a moving target. And a group of cyclists can ride together as a pack, then break apart, darting down alleys and regrouping later, filling as much or as little space as is available. I experienced this riding with New York City’s Critical Mass in 2005. Despite a fleet of police scooters, SUVs, and even a helicopter, most riders were able to avoid apprehension thanks to our ability to split up and flit through narrow spaces between buildings and lanes of traffic.
That’s not to say protesting cyclists are invincible. Police in large cities are now trained to control and break up large groups of people on bicycles, often turning the rides into fragmented cat and mouse chases. Many Critical Mass riders have been detained, arrested, and caught up in prolonged legal battles. The most infamous case came during the police response to the Critical Mass ride that coincided with the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. Justice comes, but slowly: Seven years later, the resulting legal battles are just wrapping up, with most decided or settled in favor of the bicyclists.
Read the full article here.