Counter Olympics Network


Defence campaign for the Critical Mass 182

A meeting to help establish a defence campaign for the Critical Mass 182 – Thursday 9 August

Most people will know about Critical Mass bike rides, and about what happened in London last month. If you don’t know: read the next two paragraphs. If you do: skip this next section!

[Critical Mass is an international phenomenon. In London, these rides have been taking place every single month for 18 years; cyclists meet at the same time (6-6.30pm) and place (on the South Bank, under the south end of Waterloo Bridge) on the last Friday of the month. CM is hard to define: the rides aren’t really a protest, perhaps they’re more a celebration of cycling, and an assertion of the right of cyclists to move freely and safely around London. There’s no structure; no-one is in control; routes and destinations aren’t planned in advance; anyone turning up on a bike is an equal part of CM. Rides are generally peaceful and self-regulating. The police have mostly ignored the rides in recent times.

But on the last ride, on 27 July – which attracted a typical summer crowd of many hundreds of the usual cross-section of cyclists – large numbers of police turned up in a spirit of Olympic hysteria. Some of the police busied themselves giving pieces of paper to some (but far from all) of the cyclists present. The paper purported to ban the cyclists from going anywhere north of the river. Most of the cyclists eventually did cross the river, however, and many hundreds of them went via Stratford on their travels. A lot of cyclists from one of the batches that went to Stratford were rounded up by police there (as were some cyclists who happened to be in the area and had nothing whatsoever to do with Critical Mass). Including a handful of arrests of cyclists elsewhere, a grand total of 182 cyclists ended up in custody that night. There are some reports at the (unofficial – of course! – since Critical Mass has nothing “official”, by definition) CM site. Now read on…]

Supporting the CM 182

At a meeting of Counter Olympics Network organisers on Wednesday, the 182 CM arrests were naturally a cause of concern. It was noted that, amongst the many issues underlying CON, there has always been awareness that police might use the excuse or the context of the Olympics to try some heavy-handed policing. What happened to Critical Mass seemed a prime example of this fear being realised.

There was also concern that precisely because Critical Mass has no organisation or structure, it would be hard for those involved to come together to establish a defence campaign. So it was agreed to give over most of what would have been the next CON organising meeting to trying to help the setting up of any defence campaign those involved might want.

The meeting is on Thursday 9 August at 7pm
at Firebox, 106-108 Cromer Street, London WC1 (this is a couple of blocks behind Camden Town Hall on Euston Road, just a few minutes from Kings Cross and St Pancras stations).

It was stressed that CON itself is in no position to organise this defence campaign, and nor would it be appropriate for CON to do so. CON is attempting, in a comradely fashion, to do what it can to facilitate the establishment of such a campaign by those involved – by offering, and publicising, this time and space.

…if you’re sometimes a CM cyclist
…if you were arrested on 27 July
…if you’re involved in a police monitoring group or a right to protest campaign
…if you’re giving legal support to any of those arrested
you’re warmly invited to this meeting.

What comes out of the meeting is up to those attending; at the very least it might establish or improve communications amongst some of those involved.

Anyone interested who can’t get to the meeting is welcome to send a message via the Contact page of this website, including their contact details within the message, and the message can be printed out and taken to the meeting.

Please share news of this meeting as widely as possible.

Filed under: events, policing, policing & civil liberties, transport

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