Activists who organized a nonviolent bicycle ride against the international police convention describe a heavy-handed response.
To protest the seventh annual “Urban Shield” event — which draws law enforcement agencies from across the globe to participate in war games and attend a weapons technology show — peace and justice activists held a bike ride protest, until the Oakland Police Department intervened.
Dubbed “Pedal Against the Pigs” by the ride’s organizers, the event was held on Oct. 25, which is both the day the conference started and the second anniversary of the Oakland Police Department’s violent crackdown on the Occupy Oakland protests.
As Mint Press News previously reported, during that protest, two-time Iraq veteran Scott Olsen was shot in the head with a tear gas canister by police, resulting in a skull fracture. Though he survived, Olsen has not fully recovered from the injury and suffers from speech problems and neck pain.
In a first-hand account of the bike ride, James Cox wrote:
“Cyclists pedaled down the streets peacefully, exercising the rights that the so-called U.S. Constitution grants them.
“Banging drums, flying flags, and dancing to the tunes music bikes played, almost in a parade-like procession, the group of anarchists, comrades, strangers, anti-capitalists, artists, students, and parents rode together against the normalization of police brutality and killer cops, the militarization of police happening all over America, and the police department itself as a violent and oppressive institution.”
Cox noted that no windows were smashed, property wasn’t destroyed and no one was injured, yet officers from the OPD began to follow the bicyclists — even though the department is so understaffed that they are, according to Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods, “unable to respond to entire categories of theft and other crimes, unable to investigate more than a handful of reported crimes, and completely unable to respond to neighborhood crimes when officers are required to work on a riot situation.”
During one of the last break’s the group took, Cox said the police officers who had been following them appeared aggravated, “as if an order was given to disperse” the group. Cox said that while there were only about 20 bicycling protesters remaining, there were 10 to 15 police officers on bikes, officers in squad cars, a helicopter and an ATV.
The bicyclists took a bike/pedestrian path and were riding for about five minutes, when the police officers approached the group. Talking to Cox, who was riding a yellow bike, the officers reportedly yelled, “Hey you! On the yellow bike! Stop right now!”
Cox said he didn’t stop because he hadn’t done anything that would have given the officers a reason to stop him, and turned on the camera he was wearing around his neck.
A few of the officers then formed a circle around Cox, blocking him from continuing on the bike path. They asked Cox for his ID in order to write him a ticket for not having a headlight on the front of his bicycle and for running a red light:
“By this time, my best friend who was with me the whole time, has gotten off of his bike, and is watching them harass me. He pulls out his cell phone to record what is taking place, and two or three officers surround him and place him in handcuffs. I hear him scream really loudly and I asked him if he was OK. He told me that the police had bent his wrist back violently after they had him in cuffs.”
Cox said at one point he looked around and saw cops behind him, to his left, right and front. “I started counting to see just how many and at 27 I stopped,” he wrote.
He said he made a point of telling the cops “they belong to a racist institution” and that “they should be out responding to a shooting, or stopping someone from getting raped instead of harassing us, busting us for petty traffic violations because they know we aren’t breaking any real laws but they had to get us for something to criminalize dissent.”
After Cox signed his ticket and parted ways with the police officers, he met up with a group of people who had been part of the bike ride. He said at least five people said they had been issued tickets — four of whom were Black or multi-racial.
In his post, Cox also highlighted the story of an Anonymous member known by his Twitter handle @Anon4Justice, who was fired from his job on Friday after the Oakland Police Department contacted his employer with photos of @Anon4Justice at Friday’s protest.
The Oakland Police reportedly told his employer that @Anon4Justice had been involved in a hit-and-run accident, and was not sick like he had claimed.
“Basically what we have learned after this weekend from Urban Shield is that dissent is something that will be continue to be criminalized, and that the police will go to any extent possible to scare people away from resisting and fighting back,” Cox said. “We cannot let their attempts stop us from the work that needs to be done to change this sick system and the plagued institutions that keep the system running.”