Critical Mass is a worldwide alternative transportation movement. In Minneapolis they gather the last Friday of the month for a mass bike ride, estimates say there were around two to three hundred bicyclists participating during this particular ride, some say three to four hundred. This is the story of what happened to me leading to my arrest, forwarded with a brief bio. Originally published at blanked-out.com
I have lived in Minneapolis since 2000. For the last 5 years I’ve served in the Minnesota Army National Guard. I have a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I am 25 and work in Downtown Minneapolis where I bike to and from each day. I am not a member of the pReNC and this was my first time attending Critical Mass. The bike ride started at Loring Park, went to the University of Minnesota Campus then back across Broadway Bridge. A helicopter was surveying the crowd from the beginning. A police car trailed us the entire time, sounding their siren as they drove through intersections. As the crowd passed people would smile at us, whip out camera phones or whoop and holler. Bystanders would ask “What’s this all about?” Bikers usually responded with “Happy Friday!” I saw at least one plainclothes officer tracking us with a camcorder. Later, when crossing the Broadway Bridge I came across a single arrest in progress. Unified chants of “Let him go!” began – a few minutes later they did. Bikers immediately continued riding along with the rear police escort.
101 W Grant St, Minneapolis, MN 55403-2339
As we started to ride through the underpass on LaSalle Street things changed. A maroon police car raced ahead in the opposite lane against traffic and cut off the last ½ of the group. Most then biked around this car. I was biking in the left hand lane as we came out from under the bridge. To my right was a Super America gas station - when a police car jumped the median and knocked off the cyclist behind me. He was riding a red road bike. He fell and hit the ground his bike tumbled and I could see the back tire was bent at a 45 degree angle. So I circled back to him to see if he was okay. Besides scrapes on his arms and forehead he said he was fine. We were both off of our bikes walking them - he was carrying his. As we passed the parked police car the boy said to the officer “You smashed my bike.” He did not swear at the officer. It was in the same voice as one would say “Dude, where’s the remote?”
“Pussy”, the officer replied. He then shouted to the group of cyclists “You’re all a bunch of pussies!” The officer next to him turned to me and said “You wanna get maced?”
The statement did not follow an order. It was not “Leave or you are going to get maced.” I told him matter-of-factly that I’d had worse in the Army. In basic training they led us to a shack about the size of a regular truck, chuck full of tear gas (or as they call it CS gas). Once inside you take off your gas mask and experience sudden hell. Everything burns, eyes, nose, throat. It felt like you were swallowing fire, just to breathe. Panic sets in hard and it takes willpower not to claw everyone out of your way. I was about three feet from the officer when he decided to see if I was telling the truth or not and sprayed me in the face.
I then walked away and two girls ran up to me with water bottles to dilute the burn. My bike and I moved to the sidewalk near the Super America as police cars arrived in droves, knocking over bicyclists and jumping out with guns drawn telling them to get down on their faces. I saw at least three officers aim their guns at people standing by their bikes watching. While the police were placing the bikers in hand cuffs protesters in the front of the parade doubled back to witness the calamity. They began chanting, “Let them go!”, “Our Streets!”, “What’s the charge!” and “Cowards!”
Soon there were at least a 100 riders watching as well as numerous bystanders. The police started making a chain to cover the street with their bodies, while spraying mace which was ineffectual as they were downwind of the protesters. This failure seemed to incite them as a few broke off and started grabbing people and forcing them to the ground. Beneath the repetitive chants could be heard an echo of “Quit resisting!” followed by “I’m not, I’m not!”
Le Salle underpass in the background. SuperAmerica gas station to the left. Me getting my a-- handed to me, off screen.
At this point I’d seen enough. The streets were filled with police cars and bikers. I had the sense to know this was entirely different from the incident on Broadway. The situation was spinning out of control. Let me state plainly that at no time did I see a biker struggling to break free from an officer or a biker attack an officer. I was only about four blocks from home. I began to walk my bike on the sidewalk towards Franklin Ave. I could hear several police officers behind me yelling at a girl to move and her plea “I’m trying to - I’m going as fast as I can!” There were at least 15 people ahead of us walking their bikes as well. Then I felt as someone pushed my rear bike tire and said “Move now!”
I responded, “Yes officer, I am moving as fast as I can officer.” I was immediately shoved in the back, falling forward, and almost dropped my bike. I blurted out “What the!” as I stood up, looking over my shoulder because I didn’t believe that a officer would shove someone following their orders – and if it was a policeman I wanted to see his badge number. I will call this person “Officer A”.
Immediately four officers pulled me down on my back, only my left hand was free. The officer who held my left leg was hitting it with a shock stick making my thigh muscles jump. All four told me to stop resisting at which I joined the aforementioned chorus and said “I am not resisting officer, I am not.” I was then told to get on my stomach. I was hand cuffed and shaken around by them to which I kept repeating “I’m not resisting.” I was then handed over to another officer. I will call this person “Officer B”.
“I am not resisting officer.” I offered. “I’m not hurting you, am I?” “No, thank you officer.” “You’re the military guy I maced earlier, aren’t you?” “It’s as you say.”
The officer removed my messenger bag. He put me in a police car at the center of the intersection asked me for ID and while fishing for it in my bag he pulled out my ringing cell phone. He asked “Who’s Rachel?”
Sitting alone in the police car I watched the computer in the front seat tick away with updates on the location of the bikers who were still riding, they were on Hiawatha now and the numbers were down to below 100. A female officer got in the car and asked me what this was all about and I explained. She told me she was a Probation Officer and she was pulled off her case to assist.
“That’s unfortunate” I said. And then after a minute she replied, "It must be hot back there." She then rolled down the back windows for me. "Thank you."
Outside the car Officer A and B were talking. Officer A came to my window and said I was going to jail for assault and that it was a felony. In disbelief I said, “What!?” “You spit in my face!” I had not. “No I didn’t officer.” I said plainly, searching his face for any evidence of dampness and of course saw nothing. Officer B asked A if I would be charged with PC Assault, “It wouldn’t stick”.
Officer B opened the door to the drivers seat as the streets began to clear and yellow police tape started to be strung across the road. As he sat down and we both simultaneously let out a sigh. He then asked,
“You a liberal?”
"No", and we started to drive away. I told him that was was not a liberal, and at closest maybe a Libertarian. He asked me what that was suppose to mean, but since I didn't think this was the most appropriate time to explain the Libertarian platform, I tried to bite my tongue. But then out from my mouth came,
"We oppose gun control, support the right to carry arms, and get rid of the ATF, stuff like that."
I'll never know why, gun control has never been an issue I've really ever put much thought into. In fact my experience at shooting ranges in the Army, that of effectively knocking off targets 300 meters away, gave me so much respect for the power of a gun that I never want to own a gun, so long as I continue urban living.
We drove to a parking lot behind the convention center. I was taken to a line of other sitting arrestees but as soon as the officer helped me to the ground he was told,
“This one goes back to the car.”
I didn’t know if this was good news or bad but my time in basic training told me to always expect the worst. Before going back into the car my handcuffs were replaced with zip ties and the Officer B asked if I was going to struggle.
“No, I am a kitten officer.” “What?” “No I will not struggle officer” I said plainly. I sat in the car and watched more officers arrive with people in handcuffs and sit them down. Groups of officers congregated and talked about weekend plans, vacation, "Do you think they're gonna give us overtime pay for this?" "They should. What schedule are you on?"
I was told to get out and assisted from the car. Officer B helped me navigate between police cars as it was getting dark now and I had sunglasses on covered in mace. The arrestees got into a line as I was handed my bag to hold behind me. Then each of us had our photos taken with the officer who arrested us. I thought of Lindsay Lohan’s recent embarrassing mug shot so I smiled. We were then led to a van and before I was lifted in an officer asked Officer B,
“Has he been searched?” I had not. “Yes he has, but I’ll do it again.”
While I was quickly searched for the first time it felt like I now had a little bit of the upper hand on Officer B, and I didn't like it. After he finished searching me in silence I was lifted up into the van, one guy was inside. We said hello. Soon the van was full and we exchanged stories and names. One person said while looking out at the parking lot filled with officers,
“I hope no one is robbing a bank right now.”
We laughed and joked about planning a bank heist for next month. It all seemed so unreal. A young guy in a yellow shirt had to urinate badly so he told the officers and they said that they would see what they could do. Once the door was closed it started to get warm as there were about ten of us in the padded chamber. One of the guys still had his cell phone in his side pocket. With his hands tied behind his back he somehow managed to pull it out and place a call. He put the phone on speaker but still could not bend over far enough for the person on the other end to hear him. So I leaned over toward his thighs and spoke for the group. A woman asked for our names and if we had any pets that needed feeding. One man had a diabetic dog.
The young guy in yellow couldn’t wait any longer. The decision was made to unzip and urinate in the door crack. But as his hands were tied, he could not perform this maneuver alone. Another prisoner volunteered to help – watching this selfless assistance made everything I’d witnessed fade and pale in comparison. It was if the 400 cyclists on the road and everything I had done in my life had led up to watching two men, hands tied behind their backs, carried down the highway and navigating delicately in order to relive one the discomfort of an over-full bladder.
A few people attempted to play “If you were on a desert island what 3 things would you bring?” No one said a bicycle. But, then again, no one said tear gas either. -Joel Lueders