Five months ago, Wilson was standing along Belmont Avenue during a Critical Mass ride. As dozens of bicyclists streamed by, he held up a sign that read, "Cars kill more Americans each year than the Vietnam War." Scrawled on the flip side was a police-friendly message: "Cars are the #1 killer of on-duty cops."
A cop car whipped around and an officer hopped out, claiming that Wilson was interfering with traffic. Wilson was arrested, ticketed for a misdemeanor, and tossed into the paddy wagon. Ultimately, the district attorney offered to lessen the charge, but instead of accepting the plea bargain, Wilson decided to opt for a jury trial. He wanted to show that activists refuse to be pushed around by the police.
Emotions at the June Critical Mass where Wilson was holding his sign were particularly raw. A few days earlier, an allegedly drunk driver plowed through a group of bicyclists, killing two instantly. Although the bicyclists were trying to hold a peaceful vigil, they felt as if the police were harassing them. While bicyclists tried to observe a moment of silence, a police officer blared over a bullhorn, "This is an illegal gathering."
In addition to Wilson, three other Critical Mass participants were arrested. Sarah Oleksky was tackled while biking over the Burnside Bridge. She claims she was in the bike lane the entire time. This case will go to trial later in December.
Recently, Wilson's case reached its conclusion as two young, fledgling attorneys argued over the matter. With the exception of a six-member jury and one of Wilson's friends, the courtroom was empty. In about an hour's time, the prosecution laid out a cut-and-dry case: Wilson was there, he was standing in the road, and we know it because a cop said so.
Wilson's attorney argued that the activist's sign said nothing offensive and Wilson was not a threat to public safety. Underlying this argument was the assertion that the police are not automatically right and should give some leniency for those practicing free speech.
"I wanted to fight it because I don't feel like I did anything wrong," said Wilson as he waited in the marble halls of the Multnomah Circuit Courthouse for the jury to return a verdict. After deliberating for nearly an hour, the jury returned a verdict of guilty.