Caught on Tape: Hollywood LAPD Bash Bicyclists During BP Protest Ride

Okay, I admit that  I did laugh during that scene in Golden Eye when James Bond whizzes by a peloton and they all fall over. But I really admire the guts it take to ride a bike in Los Angeles. Especially after what happened this weekend.

On Friday night Critical Mass–a loosely organized, nationwide group of bicyclists which advocates for pedalers’ rights–staged a large group bike ride in protest of British Petroleum and the Gulf oil spill, and to celebrate the end of Bike Month in Los Angeles, with a larger than normal turnout for their regular last-Friday-of-month ride.

The peloton fluctuated in size, with 200 to 1,000 riders, moved northeast through Los Angeles after converging at the architecturally-acclaimed, futuristic ARCO/BP gas station near the border of the cities of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.

The WeHo Daily reports:

Many calls came in to the LAPD about the group, with one frustrated driver complaining that some riders around Olympic and Fairfax were hitting their vehicle as they passed, perhaps with their hands as the driver attempted to pull into their path.

Several hundred riders, escorted by patrol cars arrived at Pan Pacific Park, and from there a splinter group of approximately 200 headed into Hollywood where things got ugly.

In an email a rider told LAist:

The *vast majority* of the police along the way were helpful and accommodating. Even firefighters were out on the sidewalks outside of their stations giving high fives and waving hello. But for whatever reason the police in Hollywood were extremely aggressive and were harassing riders for no reason other than to get their kicks (I presume).

BikesideLA reports that riders:

were met with a contingent of LAPD Officers armed with batons kicking and tackling cyclists off their bikes. Officers drove squad cars into the crowd of riders. Some cyclists were even stopped in their tracks and flung from their bike with a baton stuck in the spokes (a la Breaking Away). These cyclists were then brutalized, handcuffed and then cited for small infractions such as no lights or not obeying traffic laws…

At no point was the mass of riders identified as an illegal assembly or addressed with a formal dispersal order. In fact: officers employed the use of force to effect dispersal (which is against LAPD policy and illegal).

Well, yeah, but riding without lights is against the law, same as not driving with headlights. And bicyclists should obey the traffic laws, especially since Critical Mass is trying to show the benefits of bike riding and make bicycling a more accepted thing in Los Angeles. But knocking over bicyclists then shouting conflicting commands

“Get up!”

“Stay down!”

is a pretty assholic way enforce traffic laws.

Especially when LAPD Chief Beck made special public service announcement about bike riders.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.