THE WHEELS OF INJUSTICE
Last week, before reaching a labor union rally at which activists hoped to express support for local dockworkers, a critical mass bike ride was disrupted by police. I was there. I had written a brief news story about the rally for the Mercury, and was taking photographs when I was tackled from my bike and arrested. My right arm was injured and a finger was cut. One woman also had her arm twisted despite her compliance with police officers; most of the other riders were cited for failing to use a bike lane.
Days before the rally, which was held by the International Longshore and Warehousers Union local 8, a number of local activists and workers began to call for a critical mass as a way for non-union members to express their support. Currently, the ILWU is entering contract re-negotiations with the threat of military intervention issued by George Bush if the union doesn't agree to terms set by the shipping industry.
Just before the 35 or so riders began their journey from the Burnside Bridge, several motorcycle cops circled, revved their engines, and lined up opposite us.
The riders circled around the police and proceeded north on the Naito Parkway. When the group approached the Broadway Bridge, the police motorcycles suddenly entered the opposing traffic lanes and sped alongside us. As I attempted to take photos from my bike, one officer immediately singled me out. Demanding that I pull over, the officer swung his motorcycle in front of me, forcing me towards the curb. Cautious of running into him, I jumped onto the sidewalk. Soon afterward, I was tackled and dragged back into the street, where I heard my camera slam against the asphalt.
Although others were cited and released, I was cuffed and brought downtown. Allegedly, I had failed to use a bike lane and failed to obey a police officer--traffic citations totaling $250.
It is curious that the police presence was far greater than what usually accompanies the monthly critical mass rides in Portland. More disturbing is that I may have been singled out for taking photos of the event. Increasingly, activists in Portland have complained that police are clamping down on political protests and attempts at documenting their heavy-handed tactics. I now know it firsthand.