NYC Critical Mass to Smolka: Ride Free!
24 Feb 2007 05:11 GMT
200 Critical Mass cyclists and pedestrians gathered in a frigid Union Square tonight accompanied by radical marching band, The Rude Mechanical Orchestra. The Rude Mechanical was there to lead everyone in a joyous celebration of the retirement of assistant police chief Bruce Smolka. This was the last ride before the old-new-old parade permit rules go into effect, and the first ride with the new-old-new police surveillance restrictions. Word was spread throughout the crowd that the ride would start on foot so as to avoid police harassment. For almost a year now, the NYPD has been writing bogus tickets as the cyclists set off from Union Square. Walking together down the sidewalk with the band in front, riders wondered what the police scooters would do. Would they ticket Critical Mass for walking their bikes instead of riding them? Or would they let them continue on unimpeded?
"The Smolka Cruiser" - Photo by Jordan Groh
Making their way to the 13th precinct at 230 E 21st St where Smolka used to work, the mass danced, cheered, and sang along with the band, standing face to face with their friends in blue. The scooter cops rode alongside, ending in a line right in front of the precinct. Their stern looks and blue uniforms couldn't dampen the joy felt in the crowd. Other cops from inside the building came out to watch the spectacle. A speech was made about the legacy of Mr. Smolka, during which the cyclists revealed their surprise: a bike for Smolka! The Smolka Cruiser featured custom decals honoring his 33 years of service.* With blue and red flashing lights embellishing the front, Smolka's name was inscribed on the frame along with a message: "Ride Free! Love, NYC Critical Mass
As the band played on, some cyclists tried to present the gift to the precinct. But alas, they were turned away. They were told that Mr. Smolka was already retired and they would not accept it. In fact, they would have considered the bike to be "abandoned property." Sources from inside the building say that the entire precinct found the event humorous.
With scooter cops getting increasingly aggravated with the crowd, the mass departed. Mounting their bikes, the ride finally took off on wheels. Unfortunately, the cops started their bogus ticketing scheme again. One cyclist was ticketed for not having a front bike light, even though he was wearing a head light. Simultaneously, onlookers were given a dispersal order and threatened with arrest.
As the new parade permit rules go into effect next month, cyclists made a bold move by literally walking to the door of the police precinct and standing strong, cheering "Whose streets? OUR streets!". If one thing is certain, critical mass will prevail. Still We Ride!!!
* For background on Bruce Smolka's infamous career, please read this article