Riding at their own risk



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Ken -Lsqny)

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Riding at their own risk

Nine people face felony charges in what police call a riot incited by bicyclists who advocate their
right to share the road, but cyclists say police were the instigators

By MICHAEL BEEBE and VANESSA THOMAS News Staff Reporters The Buffalo News
6/5/2003

The defendants - five men and four women - range in age from 19 to 49, and are hardly the usual
criminal suspects one finds before the bench in City Court.

The nine people, eight of whom are part of a group of 120 or so bicyclists who gathered outside City
Hall last Friday afternoon for a monthly ride called Critical Mass, will appear Friday in City Court
to face felony charges of inciting a riot on Elmwood Avenue.

The group includes two professors - one who teaches journalism at Buffalo State College, the other
an ethics teacher at Canisius College. Two are former school spelling bee champions. One is a woman
with two children who stopped her car because she said police were beating a cyclist.

All nine are also accused of a slew of charges that include resisting arrest, using obscenities,
disorderly conduct and failing to obey the commands of police officers.

Two are also charged with assaulting a police officer - one officer said he was bitten on the
finger, another said he was kicked in the stomach.

The bicyclists deny the accusations. They say some of their members were beaten by police using
nightsticks or heavy flashlights. They say they were roughed up, hauled to jail and treated like
common criminals.

"This was a police riot, not a bicycle riot," said their attorney, Mark J. Mahoney, after he
examined dozens of photographs of the arrests taken by a half-dozen cyclists. "The police are the
ones with the energy. They were the ones going into the crowd."

Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Blankenberg examined those same photographs. He said they show his
officers acted appropriately.

"They've got nobody swinging a club," Blankenberg said of the photographs displayed on a Web site
www.rentaweb.net/bikeride. "To me, it's bull----. If there was any aggressive action by the police,
that would have been the grabber on the Web site. They have everything but."

A neighborhood resident who witnessed the arrests confirmed that some of those arrested were hit
with nightsticks, but said the police acted appropriately.

"They were getting into the face of the police officers," said Joseph Savioli, a computer sales
representative who described himself as a frequent bicyclist. "They got more and more obnoxious.
More police came, the police felt they were being threatened, and they did what they had to do.

"I probably saw two to six people getting hit," he said.

Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark and the commander of Buffalo's internal affairs unit
said they will look at how police responded.

"I don't know enough about what happened here," Clark said. "I know what the protesters are saying.
I know what the police say. I need to talk to as many of them to get a truer picture. After looking
at these sort of things over 30 years, I know the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle."

Police Inspector Patrick G. Stafford, commander of the department's Professional Standards Division,
said his unit is looking at the arrests.

"All those allegations of misconduct by the police will be fully investigated, and a conclusion of
the facts will be presented to the commissioner and his staff," Stafford said. Clark said his
preliminary look so far shows that felony charges against the bicyclists may not be warranted.

"I'm going to ask that the matters right now be adjourned for a matter of time," the district
attorney said. "I'm not prepared to move to felony hearings right away, nor do I think felony
hearings might be the way to handle this."

Fighting for cyclists' rights

All this from a bicycle ride that started peacefully, as it has once a month here for the last
four years.

The local bicyclists are part of the Critical Mass movement that began in San Francisco in 1992 and
has spread to more than 300 cities.

"We aren't blocking traffic, we are traffic," Critical Mass in Berkeley, Calif., wrote in a
beginner's guide. "How many times have you had to wait forever to cross a busy dangerous street? For
once, bikes are the majority." Critical Mass brings controversy wherever it goes because the large
groups of cyclists often tie up traffic, run red lights while others guard intersections - a
practice called corking - and sometimes irritate other bicyclists who say the group does them no
favors by getting motorists mad at all cyclists.

Savioli, for one, said besides blocking traffic, few of the cyclists he saw last week wore helmets,
some had no shoes on, and others carried beer in their water bottle racks.

In Buffalo, the group meets at 5:30 p.m. on the last Friday of each month in front of City Hall. As
a group, they decide which way to go and have biked throughout the city.

It's an eclectic group. Some wear bicycle helmets and ride expensive bicycles; others come on
beat-up hand-me-downs; some ride children's bikes with streamers on the handlebars.

Michael Niman, a professor of journalism and mass communications at Buffalo State College and one of
those arrested Friday, explained misperceptions he said police and others have about Critical Mass
in a column he wrote in June 2002 for the alternative weekly Artvoice.

"Police often claim the cyclists are "blockading traffic,' " Niman wrote. "This is also false.
Critical Mass is not about bicyclists "blockading' anything. It's about cyclists becoming traffic
and hence, lawfully filling the streets where they have a legal right to ride - a right that is
often denied them by reckless aggressive ignorant automobile drivers.

"Hence," Niman wrote, "Critical Mass is also about education, as the monthly rides serve to educate
drivers and police officers about the rights of bicyclists."

Blankenberg, the deputy police commissioner, said Niman and Critical Mass need to be educated about
the rules of the road as defined by New York's Vehicle & Traffic Law.

Pictures on the Web site show the Critical Mass group riding five or six abreast on Delaware Avenue
on Friday, blocking traffic behind them.

"The law is that no one rides more than two abreast, you stay to the right, and when overtaken by
traffic, you must form a single file," Blankenberg said.

Conflicting accounts

On Friday's ride, Critical Mass left City Hall, rode north on Delaware Avenue, headed west on Allen
Street and then continued north on Elmwood Avenue.

David Hess, who said he is a competitive cyclist, wrote in an e-mail to The Buffalo News that he
witnessed Friday's ride and said those who disrupted traffic were not cycling enthusiasts. When the
group went through Allentown, he said, they blocked traffic in both directions.

"The group was a perfect example of why motorists don't want to share the roads with others," he
said, "and I was disgusted." Gerald Bove, a graduate student at the University at Buffalo, was on
his first Critical Mass ride last week, near the front of the pack, when a police car came alongside
the group on Elmwood Avenue just past North Street.

"They told us we needed to get off the street," Bove said.

Many in the group said they told the two officers it was illegal to ride on the sidewalk.

The two officers in the police car pulled over the last two cyclists in the group near
Summer Street.

Maria Van Wyek-Haney and Matthew Downey, the last two cyclists in the group, were told by the
officers - Michael Bauer and Daniel Horan - that they were going to be given traffic tickets for
failing to yield to an emergency vehicle.

Bove said he and the rest of the cyclists stopped, and he rode back up the other side of Elmwood.
When he got to where the police car was, he got off his bicycle and walked it across the street.

"You come here, you're getting the next ticket," he said one of the officers told him. "They gave me
a ticket for jaywalking."

Bove said that as he waited for his ticket, with the bicyclists all now stopped on Elmwood, at least
three more police cars suddenly showed up. Later police reports put a total of 28 officers
eventually on the scene, led by two lieutenants.

"They got out, they had their batons ready," Bove said. "People started saying, "Geez, why do we
need all these police officers for this?' There weren't any obscenities that I heard. Some people in
the crowd were making oinking noises."

Pictures taken by the bicyclists show the newly arriving police officers wearing black gloves,
holding batons and flashlights.

Bove said police told him they needed to check his identification and told him to get into the
police car.

"This black person stepped off the curb and said, "Give this guy a break,' " Bove said. "They
grabbed him, bent him over the car and cuffed him. That's when things got out of control."

Heron Simmonds, 33, an adjunct professor of ethics at Canisius, was the person then arrested. Others
said the rest of the group was incensed to see the only black person in the Critical Mass group in
handcuffs.

Police accuse Simmonds of resisting arrest and fighting with them, but the pictures on the Web site
show Simmonds standing calmly while one officer puts handcuffs on him and another looks off down
the street.

As Officer John Santiago led Simmonds to a police car, Niman said he followed at a distance, taking
photographs. Niman said he told police he was a credentialed journalist, working for Artvoice.

"The last picture I took was of Heron Simmonds being led away by a police officer," Niman said.
"Within a second or so, I was struck from behind."

Niman said he was clubbed, thrown to the ground, and said he felt like someone stuck something in
his mouth and tried to gag him. Police Officer Robert Johnson accused Niman of biting him on the
right index finger and charged him with felony assault.

Another officer, Daniel Horan, accused Jonathan Piret, 21, of Lockport, of kicking him in the chest
and stomach and charged him with felony assault.

The only noncyclist charged with inciting a riot was Lesley Lannan, 49, who stopped her car as she
was driving past, Mahoney said, while Niman was being hit.

"Officer, this is wrong," she said as she was being arrested. "I wasn't involved in this. I was just
getting a damn pizza." Also arrested on the felony charges were Siobhan K. McCollum, 38, of Buffalo;
Mary Ann Coyle, 42, of Buffalo; Craig J. Freudenthal, 23, of the Town of Tonawanda; Genevieve
Bojado, 20, of Buffalo; and Eric A. Bifaro, 19, of Cheektowaga.

Discussions are urged

Critical Mass riders have also been arrested in other cities, but this is the first time anyone
recalls cyclists being charged with inciting a riot.

Jesse Day, executive director of the New York Bicycling Coalition, which he said represents about
100,000 bicyclists in the state through various bicycle clubs and organizations, urges a meeting in
Buffalo before the next Critical Mass ride, June 27.

He said after a similar ride brought arrests in New York City two years ago, members of the New York
Police Department and Times Up, a group participating in the ride, held a meeting.

"They sat down and worked something out," he said.

Blankenberg said he is willing to meet with Critical Mass organizers, but those who ride with the
group say they have no organizers.

Clark said he doesn't want to see another round of arrests later this month.

"Regardless of how this situation works out in the criminal justice system, plainly there has to
be discussions between two groups to prevent this from happening," Clark said. "While it's not my
job to stop it, if it happens again I'm going to look at this very harshly. Once is enough. On
both sides."

e-mail: [email protected] and [email protected]

Ken (NY) Chairman, Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Bureau, Department Of Redundancy Department
____________________________________
email: http://www.geocities.com/bluesguy68/email.htm

Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles before; I have no doubt
he would use them again if permitted to develop them. --Bill Clinton, December 17, 1998
 
M

Mitch Haley

Guest
"Ken [NY)" wrote:
>
> Savioli, for one, said besides blocking traffic, few of the cyclists he saw last week wore
> helmets, some had no shoes on, and others carried beer in their water bottle racks.

They have a mandatory shoe and helmet law in Buffalo? The beer raises an interesting question,
which I can't even answer for my own state: Do 'open container of alcohol in a vehicle' laws apply
to bicycles?

As for the rest, CM'ers can be scufflaws, and large groups of cops have been known to engage in mob
violence. From where I sit, I sure can't tell if either or both happened here.

Mitch.
 
T

Tom Keats

Guest
In article <[email protected]>, Mitch Haley <[email protected]> writes:

> As for the rest, CM'ers can be scufflaws, and large groups of cops have been known to engage in
> mob violence. From where I sit, I sure can't tell if either or both happened here.

I wonder what would've happened if the riders were just left alone.

cheers, Tom

--
-- Powered by FreeBSD Above address is just a spam midden. I'm really at: tkeats [curlicue] vcn
[point] bc [point] ca
 
M

Mitch Haley

Guest
Tom Keats wrote:
> I wonder what would've happened if the riders were just left alone.

I'm assuming they would have slowed down some cars, drank some beer, and gone home.

The above makes one lean more towards cops attacking fools on bikes as opposed to fools attacking
armed cops, doesn't it? Mitch.
 
J

Just Zis Guy

Guest
On Fri, 06 Jun 2003 22:23:44 -0400, Mitch Haley <[email protected]> wrote:

>> I wonder what would've happened if the riders were just left alone.

>I'm assuming they would have slowed down some cars, drank some beer, and gone home.

Quite. It sounds like someone threw a tantrum to me.

Guy
===
** WARNING ** This posting may contain traces of irony. http://www.chapmancentral.com (BT ADSL and
dynamic DNS permitting)
NOTE: BT Openworld have now blocked port 25 (without notice), so old mail addresses may no longer
work. Apologies.
 
M

Matt J

Guest
It's stories like that that both make me want to get out and ride with the local critical mass, and
also frusterate me because sometimes they get out of hand. If you're perfectly obeying the law, then
it's great to throw it in some fat cop's face when he tries to "pull you over:" you're doing nothing
wrong. If they're blocking all the traffic on purpose, that's not quite as constructive... Either
way, I wish I'd been there with a video camera! That will be a must if I go on a ride, to capture
anything that might happen... Best of luck to all involved - don't get screwed by some power-abusing
cops! Matt
 
S

Scott Eiler

Guest
In article <[email protected]>, the robotic servitors of
[email protected] (Matt J) rose up with the following chant:
>It's stories like that that both make me want to get out and ride with the local critical mass, and
>also frusterate me because sometimes they get out of hand. If you're perfectly obeying the law,
>then it's great to throw it in some fat cop's face when he tries to "pull you over:" you're doing
>nothing wrong. If they're blocking all the traffic on purpose, that's not quite as constructive...

The one thing I can fault the bikers for, is running the red lights. Sure, the people who block the
intersection can say to the stopped motorists, "The penalty for running a red light shouldn't be
death, so you'll just have to stay stopped while we run this light." But there *is* a rightful
penalty for running a light, and I don't see Critical Mass offering to pay it.

Other than that... they ought to try a Critical Mass rally in automobiles sometime, one biker per
car. That should show the other drivers what's more disruptive to traffic patterns, more bikes or
more cars.

-------- Scott Eiler B{D> -------- http://www.eilertech.com/ --------

"We have more than enough people in this world, so adding children to it is about as much of a
contribution as donating a box of cereal to the Kellogg's company!" -- Bill, from the Cyber-Church
of Jesus Christ Childfree.
 
R

Rick Donnelly

Guest
...stuff deleted

> Other than that... they ought to try a Critical Mass rally in automobiles sometime, one biker per
> car. That should show the other drivers what's
more
> disruptive to traffic patterns, more bikes or more cars.
>

This is done daily. Nobody notices because they are accostomed to sitting pointlessly in traffic. A
typical vehicular 5 mile commute, in some areas, can take between 40-80 minutes. Yet, despite, this,
only a handful of cyclists are on these roads.

Rick
 
S

Scott Eiler

Guest
In article <ef%[email protected]>, the robotic servitors of "Rick
Donnelly" <[email protected]> rose up with the following chant:
>
>> Other than that... they ought to try a Critical Mass rally in automobiles sometime, one biker per
>> car. That should show the other drivers what's more disruptive to traffic patterns, more bikes or
>> more cars.
>
>This is done daily. Nobody notices because they are accostomed to sitting pointlessly in traffic. A
>typical vehicular 5 mile commute, in some areas, can take between 40-80 minutes. Yet, despite,
>this, only a handful of cyclists are on these roads.

Oh, but what if the CM rally cars are festooned with bike racks and "Policemen Forced Us Off Our
Bikes" banners? And what if they drive in formation, and stop at lights even if they don't have to,
so the whole group can stay together? Oh yes, they'll be noticed.

-------- Scott Eiler B{D> -------- http://www.eilertech.com/ --------

"We have more than enough people in this world, so adding children to it is about as much of a
contribution as donating a box of cereal to the Kellogg's company!" -- Bill, from the Cyber-Church
of Jesus Christ Childfree.
 
K

Ken -Lsqny)

Guest
On 8 Jun 2003 14:26:38 -0700, [email protected] (Matt J) ranted:

>It's stories like that that both make me want to get out and ride with the local critical mass, and
>also frusterate me because sometimes they get out of hand. If you're perfectly obeying the law,
>then it's great to throw it in some fat cop's face when he tries to "pull you over:" you're doing
>nothing wrong. If they're blocking all the traffic on purpose, that's not quite as constructive...
>Either way, I wish I'd been there with a video camera! That will be a must if I go on a ride, to
>capture anything that might happen... Best of luck to all involved - don't get screwed by some
>power-abusing cops! Matt

And don't forget to erase the video if the beer drinkers go postal. Only keep the GOOD
stuff. Cheers, Ken (NY) Chairman, Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Bureau, Department Of
Redundancy Department
____________________________________
email: http://www.geocities.com/bluesguy68/email.htm

Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles before; I have no doubt
he would use them again if permitted to develop them. --Bill Clinton, December 17, 1998

We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his
country. --Albert Gore, 23 September 2001
Q: What the hardest thing about rollerblading?
R: Telling your parents you’re gay.
 
D

Dr Engelbert Bu

Guest
Scott Eiler wrote:

> The one thing I can fault the bikers for, is running the red lights. Sure, the people who block
> the intersection can say to the stopped motorists, "The penalty for running a red light shouldn't
> be death, so you'll just have to stay stopped while we run this light." But there *is* a rightful
> penalty for running a light, and I don't see Critical Mass offering to pay it.

That again depends on the situation and the local law. Here in Germany demonstrations are legal
(part of free speech rights), but have to be anounced to authorities in advance. Police will then
send two cars (going in front and behind the demonstration with flashing lights) and a couple of
motor cycle cops to block the roads that a demonstration crosses. This is necessary for the people
in a demonstration staying together, and it ensures the safety of all involved.

In effect this means that the right of the demonstrators to free speech is considered more important
than the right of car drivers to free movement. This is not unreasonable, as the limitation of
movement is very temporarily, while preventing demonstrations would be a permanet impairment of the
right to free speech.
 
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