CHP menaces the Halloween Critical Mass ride

CHP officers moved quickly to cut off Critical Mass at one point last night, sparking some tense standoffs up the road.
Steven T. Jones

The California Highway Patrol seems to be on high alert and itching to fight the people in the street, at least if a bizarre incident at last night’s Critical Mass is any indication. And that’s a scary prospect in the Bay Area, where the ongoing standoffs between police and the Occupy movements in San Francisco and Oakland are potential powder kegs that require cool heads on both sides.
Critical Mass was rolling through the warm streets of San Francisco, as it’s been doing on the last Friday of the month for 19 years, and it was a glorious night. The weather was nicer than it’s been in years for the Halloween ride and most of the large crowd wore costumes, many of them playing off Occupy Wall Street themes, from zombie bankers to the Glass Seagull (a reference to the gutted banking regulation Glass-Steagall Act).
Best of all, the San Francisco Police Department seemed to be standing down and allowing the ride to self-regulate, which it did with a minimum of conflicts with drivers. The mood was buoyant and many riders said it was the best Critical Mass they’d been on in a long time.
Then suddenly, as the ride headed up Market Street toward the Castro, crossing Octavia Boulevard, about a dozen CHP officers on motorcycle rapidly descended on the ride, aggressively cutting the dense ride in half to clear Octavia. Some used their motorcycles to push the cyclists back and tensions flared.
Angry words were exchanged back-and-forth between the cyclists and cops, some of whom seemed to be itching for a fight. One in particular pursued the cyclists up Market Street, playing the provocative tough guy or using his motorcycle to try to corral and menace the ride, long after the standoff had ended with enough green lights for the ride to get past Octavia and his fellow officers left.
This battle over public space and freedom of assembly isn’t going away anytime soon. There are resentments building and there will be bad apples on both sides of the barricades in the days and weeks to come. That’s one reason why Mayor Ed Lee is playing a dangerous game by threatening to raid OccupySF at any moment, and why the SFPD’s approach to this ride was far better than the CHP’s.
Just stand down and let the people police themselves.


Good, its about time the cops start doing their jobs. The right you have to assemble and protest is fine so long as it doesn't infringe on my or anyone else's rights to not be burdened by YOU! This article was written like critical mass is a charity event, or that the participants were just minding their business when "the man" came down on them. Let's make no mistake, the PURPOSE of critical mass is to disrupt traffic and people's Friday commute as much as possible. The participants of critical mass have been looking for confrontation with drivers forever, that's the POINT of the ride. To act like its some kind of right to violate traffic laws and disrupt the day of anyone with a car, and that you should be self policed but presumably those with cars need to be policed by the critical mass gang is idiotic. Octavia Street? That's the main freeway out of the city. Don't give me the sob story like your intentions are pure.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 29, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

lives of others because the 1st Amendment trumps all other considerations.

It doesn't.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2011 @ 1:52 am

One criticism I have of the OWS movement (which I wholeheartedly support) is that they should be much more willing (and expecting) to get arrested and go to jail. Police cannot (legally/ morally/ Constitutionally) whup-ass on protestors, but they can (and perhaps should) arrest anyone in violation of any municipal law. And the protestors shouldn't be indignant about being arrested. (Both King and Thoreau talk about this willingness to face the penalty of the law as a key component of Civil Disobedience).

As for Critical Mass... Yes... they should get traffic tickets for any traffic laws they break!

But you see... that's how the law is actually on their side!

I welcome any comments here as well as here:


Posted by Guest Vincent on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

so the worst that happens is poor thousands of motorists lose some minutes of their commute time. The glut of cars in general keeps everybody in hours of travel congestion everywhere.

If you hate traffic and slow travel then your problem is with cars.

Cars and traffic deteriorate the quality of life, be a real human, take a walk once in a while, we shouldn't resign ourselves to a 3 foot strip of pavement to walk on in the world.

I drive a car all the time but the rare times i am walking, my right to walk and exist is threatened by YOU and your IMPATIENCE. Get out of your metal rolling box and get real.

But you prolly dont even hear me tho

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2011 @ 5:53 am

The point of critical mass is to stop the occasional political witch hunts against bikes that used to flare up every so often years ago.

Bikes were ostracized and cornered and forced to fight back pretty much as a matter of pure survival, discovered they had serious political power, and it just kept going from there.

Every conservative politician thinks the bike community is weak and is an opportunity to solidify and please the conservative voter base, and every conservative politician gets his a$$ whipped by a disorganized unruly young mob.

Won't be any different with Ed Lee I don't think. Plus I see parallels with OWS. We are going to beat Ed Lee's M***** F****** a$$ if he even blinks at us wrong.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 29, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

Cars infringe my right to ride my bike freely.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2011 @ 5:34 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

Going to make a GREAT mayor, don't you think?

Posted by Che on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 7:49 am

And polls show very high approval ratings

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 8:16 am

Willie Brown is mayor. Let's keep out facts straight.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 8:35 am

While the civil war between bicyclists and automobiles rages in San Francisco, the collateral damage that are pedestrians is completely ignored. It's bad enough that I don't cross a street without making eye contact with every driver who might want to make a left or right turn while I'm venturing into a crosswalk, but to have to worry about bikes mowing me down in that same crosswalk or sidewalk has gotten to be ridiculous.

I was walking to Civic Center down Market from Church Street last Friday evening when Critical Mass started streaming by in their costumes, and it looked charming. Crossing a sidewalk, however, with bikes maneuvering around cars and then slamming into pedestrians, was not so charming. A lot of Critical Mass members seem to be from the suburbs (I've seen their arrivals at the Embarcadero via BART and ferries over the years) where there are few pedestrians, so they seriously don't give them a thought. However, San Francisco is an actual city where a lot of people walk to get where they're going and yet we're invisible. The CHP don't give a crap, neither do the police, and neither do the holier-than-thou bicyclists. Something is seriously askew.

Posted by sfmike on Oct. 30, 2011 @ 10:42 pm

There have been numerous tickets issued to cyclists along market in the past few months, mostly for fairly mundane things like rolling over crosswalks to wait for lights. Pedestrians may be somewhat ignored, but they also aren't getting tickets, so be thankful for something.

Cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers all have minorities that are guilty of a bunch of inconsiderate and dangerous behavior. Newtonian physics and also the accident record will show you which is clearly more dangerous than the others.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 01, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

Love the discussion folks... keep it rolling!

1 criticism of OWS (which I suppport) is that protestors should offer themselves WILLINGLY for arrest (both King and Thoreau talk about this aspect I think). Don't get outraged... just get arrested like a good citizen. Hint: they won't be able to arrest everyone and they won't have jack to charge you with and in any case you'll have a strong case!

As for Critical Mass... if cyclists (or any other vehicles) are breaking traffic laws... Yes! by all means, they should get TRAFFIC TICKETS. No... Seriously. but again, that's how we Win. And some perspective... a cyclist rolling a stop light is kind of like a motorist going 41 in a 35 zone... (though the bike is surely Less dangerous still).

for more you are all invited to add comments here:


Posted by Guest Vincent on Nov. 07, 2011 @ 4:41 am