TML> Police crackdown on Reno, NV Critical Mass ride

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Police vs. Reno Critical Mass
My name is Jordan Lubek. I am from Reno, Nevada. I heard about Critical Mmass last year and this last Friday was the first time I have attended. The officer who stopped us was RPD Tartar, badge number 2064. -- , Mar. 5, 2005


It was 5:30p.m. Friday night, the sun was just beginning to set. A group of locals meet down by the River at the Java Jungle in order to prepare for the monthly critical mass bicycle ride. We wait until about ten till six so that all the people who were racing through traffic had plenty of time to join the party. We encourage the use of bicycles as an alternative to the gas guzzling and polluting vehicles that currently dominate the space of the roadway. This is basically a geographic movement that we taking a part of. We are fighting for space in a place which is inhabited by machines (cars). We are concerned about the future of a world in which people can make safe and healthy alternatives to transportation, this is our angle.

So we set off towards downtown. We rode to Virginia Street were we then headed south taking up both lanes with about 40- 50 people on bicycles. It was awesome, people patiently waited as we meandered through the streets. People were honking and shouting in both acceptance and encouragement in our mission. We proceeded south until we came to the Convention center where we made a complete u-turn to head back in the north bound direction on Virginia. There is no bicycle lane on either side of the road at this location. We were traveling past the Peppermill, when a white off-road vehicle approached the rear of our "mass" in a very aggressive manner. It was if he was going to knock someone off their bicycle of something. At this same moment a police vehicle headed in the opposite direction flipped a u-turn. Everyone thought that he was going to pull the motorist over for attempted murder or something, when all he did was proceed in following the group of bicyclists who by this time had moved to the far right of the road. I was proceeding to move to the right as well thinking that the officer was just going to pass us all by when he said that I was still in the road. I then told him that no one told us that we couldn't ride in the road, so... how should I know that we aren't able to be there. This was the point when he told me to pull over. I was hesitant at first because I was near the head of the group and I couldn't just stop and have everyone crash into the back of me, plus I still didn't think that I had done anything which would give him any reason to stop me. I went no more than ten to fifteen yard before the officer used his vehicle as a shield to guide the bicycle off the road- I felt like he was going to hit me, and this was the point when it became serious.

After getting me off my bicycle he immediately handcuffed me and told me that I was going to jail for being a smart ass, and that they would impound my bicycle. By this time the rest of the group had pulled off to the side of the road to see what was going on. He then told everyone that he would call the paddy wagon and start arresting all of us. No one moved, in fact one of the riders asked him for his name and badge number which clearly disturbed him, judging by the way his voice was inflected. He was clearly in anger and definitely enraged and fired up. I was still wondering what the hell I could have done differently. By this time more cops showed up, and the officer clearly could be seen as a different person than he was two minutes ago (his behavior was under the scrutiny of other officers now). I thought I was going to jail for sure, but that wasn't the end of their targeting. There was another bicyclist in the parking lot of the Parklane Mall and he was shouting something at the officers from a distance. At this point, one of the officers who just showed up asked the first officer if he wanted him to cuff him--which they did. Now they had two of us, and more officers kept showing up (I would say in all there were maybe ten officers of the law there as well as what appeared to be a university student--judging by his "n" hat and UNR sweatshirt--who was on a ride along--just great-watch your fellow students being harassed by the people you intend to work for). At this point another officer approached me and asked me what went wrong. I could tell that this officer was going to listen, because when i was trying to talk to the first officer, he kept trying to tell me I was being a smart ass. So, anyway I proceed in telling this officer the same story I have just recited here as he listed with patience and ease, now why couldn't this be the guy we dealt with in the first place. He then told me to just hang tight and that they would have the cuffs off in no time. Finally some hope! I remained silent, and shortly hereafter this same "nice" officer took the cuffs off. I sat down next to the other apprehended subject whom I have never met previous to this engagement. During the forty five minutes to an hour that we sat there it became apparent that this was something that officers don't do every day. They even said "What should we charge them with?" I still had hope at this point because all of this just seemed a little too bizarre for me.

During this time I would just like to note the derogatory statements that were being said by officers at the scene. One of them made a remark saying, "You need to go back to Berkeley or wherever you came from." Another officer moved me away from the group and after doing so said, "Those hippies smell rank, I got to move away from there."

But not all of the officers were rude. The one who was giving the ride along was asking the other detained bicycler how he gets onto his bike (it is a custom made double stack--where two frames are welded on top of each other). It seemed as if he was entertained by the fact that this guy was riding a bike that is out of the ordinary.

At this point the female officer who was writing my ticket approached the two of us who were detained (she was holding my identification), but she was asking the other detainee what his phone number is. I then corrected her telling her that she had my ID and I said, "Doesn't it look like me", and she responded by saying, "I couldn't tell." Just another prime example of how information can be confused or misinterpreted.

Finally, after all of this the officer who made the stop approached me one last time. he kept acting like I wasn't listening by saying, "Are you paying attention, are you paying attention, cause if you're not I'll throw you in jail right now." I assure him that during this time I hadn't stopped paying attention. He asked me where I worked at, to which i said, "UNR". This seemed to confuse him a little bit, because I wasn't specific as to where at UNR. I could tell that he were scared that I might have some sort of influence or something there. Then he asked me to get more specific to which I didn't hesitate in telling him that I worked at the ASUN bookstore. His response to this was, "How would you feel if I reported this little incident to the campus police up there." I felt like he was trying to threaten me into being scared about losing my job or getting kicked out of school (I could feel his bluff though). I said, "I would encourage you to do so." He knew that this didn't scare me. Then he said, "Make sure you get all of these witnesses to come down and testify for you, I've got all of these officers that saw what happened." To which i said, "That's what it's all about, they'll be there." I could tell that he was scared about all of these bicyclists who just witnessed his anger and confusion. He then tried to intimidate me again by saying, "you know what you did was wrong." To which I said, " I choose not to respond" (seeing that he was trying to get me to admit to something), and I left.

Meanwhile all of the bicyclists (whom were also in jeopardy being threatened with the paddy wagon), still remained to see my fate. They could have easily left me there to take responsibility for my actions, but obviously they felt some sort sympathy. They were in just as much confusion as I was about the whole situation and all wanted to know the verdict. I told them it was a $680 charge for-non compliant-traffic light red-and failure to ride in the right hand lane. Everyone then agreed that we would meet next month with the media present and try and get our story told, to hopefully shed light on the issue.

In the meantime I plan on acquiring legal advice in order to fight against the charges.

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