On the last Friday of every month, dozens of bicyclists move slowly through some of the city's thoroughfares, trying to draw attention to alternative forms of commuting. The event, known as Critical Mass, has at times experienced confrontations between bikers and frustrated motorists--and most recently, the police. On October 27, Portland police officers arrested several bikers and bystanders, accusing them of disturbing the peace. Critics of the arrests believe such gruff behavior is part of a larger pattern of heavy-handed policing that has emerged over the past several months. The following story was told to the Mercury's Phil Busse by Karen Harding, owner of Cup and Saucer, a popular coffee shop on SE Hawthorne. The Mercury welcomes 400-word submissions on local issues important to you. Send your submissions to: soapbox@portlandmercury.com

"Everything happened so fast that I didn't have time to react until I was handcuffed and locked in the back seat of the police cruiser. It was the evening of the last Friday of October. Halloween weekend was beginning and a parade of bikers was moving along Hawthorne.

By the time I reached the street a cop was arresting one biker. Traffic was stopped, and five squad cars were parked along the street. The sidewalks were packed with people. I crossed Hawthorne and asked one officer what was going on. I was calm and respectful.

He yelled back, 'Get out of the street, ma'am.'

I pointed across the street to the Cup and Saucer, and told him that I owned the restaurant. Then he told me I was under arrest. Another cop grabbed both of my arms and cuffed me. They pulled my hair and bent me over the hood of the cruiser. It was at this point I realized that I was actually being arrested and started to cry hysterically.

'Stop resisting arrest,' one of the officers told me. I was taken to the downtown precinct, where I was booked and held for an hour.

The entire incident is still unbelievable to me. I felt as if I had the right to ask a simple question. No one deserves to be pushed around like that. I feel like Portlanders are being told to walk on by: don't question authority and shut the fuck up unless you are prepared to go to jail. I will not shut up, but now I am afraid to speak up as well."