Report submitted by Sara S.
Six World Carfree Network Legal Observers were on duty for the January 27th Critical Mass ride in Manhattan, all sporting our new bight yellow WCN vests. For the first time since the NYC legal observer project started, the WCN sent a fax to the Manhattan South Police the day before the ride, informing them that WCN legal observers would be monitoring the ride and asking that they respect our right to observe without police interference.
Before the ride started, police handed out a flyer stating that it was "unlawful" to ride a bike in a procession, and that if you chose to ride in a procession you "may" be arrested and your bike "may" be seized. At 7:30 pm, about one hundred riders headed East from Union Square flanked by a line of scooter cops and followed by five or six squad cars. Riders rode about 5 blocks before police began making arrests. Four riders were arrested at 13th and 3rd Avenue. At this location, two scooter officers sustained injuries after they crashed into eachother while one officer attempted to make an arrest. Thirteen additional riders were arrested at two different locations. Most arrestees were charged with the standard "parading without a permit" and "disorderly conduct" (almost all 687 riders arrested since August 2004 have been charged with these offenses). One rider was also charged with "assaulting a police officer". Witnesses to this incident reported that the rider was flipped off his bike in the course of being arrested and his bike flew into a police officer.
All 17 arrestees had their bikes seized by police as evidence. Ten arrestees were taken to the first precinct and released before midnight. The remaining seven were taken to the ninth precinct and and held until about 1 am.