Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at the Occupied Times.
The following is a personal account from one of the cyclists arrested for participating in Critical Mass on Friday 27 July, during the opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games™.
Critical Mass is a celebration of cycling, taking place on the last Friday of every month. A global event, it started in San Francisco in 1992 and came to London two years later. Being a keen cyclist, I was really looking forward to last Friday’s Critical Mass on the eve of the Olympics.
Hundreds of cyclists turned up at the starting point at Waterloo Bridge on the South Bank. The atmosphere was buzzing despite the presence of police, who had imposed unreasonable, disproportionate conditions on the event, including using powers under Section 12 of the Public Order Act to stop us to cycling north of the river.
We cycled peacefully over Blackfriars Bridge in defiance of the police who had parked their van across the bridge going north, blocking off lots of traffic and causing a hold up. Many of us outmaneuvered the police, which is quite easy when you’re on a bicycle, and continued the journey to Stratford High Street in East London, where many cyclists were eventually kettled.
Much of the journey was fun, with bystanders cheering and waving, but along the route I witnessed police aggression and antagonism on Bethnal Green Road as they pushed us away from their vehicles and accelerated away – recklessly endangering peaceful cyclists. There were also reports of police and other cars ramming into cyclists, and footage on YouTube shows police pepper spraying an elderly disabled man on a tricycle.
The police eventually arrested 182 cyclists. I was one of them, bailed without charge until, conveniently, after the games end in late September. The policing of Critical Mass demonstrated to me who the police serve; not innocent people who want to go about their lawful business free from oppressive interference from the State, but corporate interests bent on airbrushing out any possible dissent from the spectacle of the Olympics™.
That impression was reinforced when Sergeant Seffer QK75 told me he knew I was involved with “that Occupy lot”, which was “further evidence that I had committed offences.”
During the six hours I spent in a grotty cell, I was reminded of the words of Olympic Black Power hero John Carlos, who spoke in London recently and told us to repeat after him: “I am not afraid to offend my oppressor”.
– Melanie Strickland –