Cyclists arrested by the bus load
The Olympics has started and it seems cycling has become a criminal offence, worthy of police brutality – I hope the Olympic cyclists are okay tomorrow.
Hang on a minute: this is the same Olympics that politicians have been trying to brand as the greenest Olympics ever? Also, they did say how this would encourage people to get fit and into sport, didn’t they?
Critical mass met as it does on a monthly basis to cycle as a swarm, for community reclaiming of streets in London. It met near Waterloo Bridge, at the Southbank Centre. From regulars’ accounts, as it is not a “protest”, this is normally free from police suppression and it follows the whims of the mass, with no clear direction ending its route on the Royal Mall.
On this gathering, the police were there on mass too: an authoritarian mass. They announced that under a section 12 no cyclists were allowed to cross the rivers and go to any of North London. Like others there, this was where I live, and haven’t I been bombarded with Olympics posters encouraging me to get on my bike.
The over a thousand people assembled, did not move for a while. Then we set off first trying to cross Waterloo Bridge. The police blocked this route.I moved with the mass and we had similar problems at Blackfriars, our way blocked by a police line, which was also blocking the traffic.
Incidentally, it was noticed amongst the crowd that David Beckham was stuck the other side of the roadblock in a dark SUV heading south. His presence stirred ripples of excitement, although the focus was more about how to head over the river.
As passersby started to pay a bit more attention, to take pictures and look at him, the police reacted. Or in my interpretation, unlawfully overreacted a little like the imposition of the Section 12. I saw cyclists thrown off their bikes, hit and manhandled for standing still. If the police had not blocked the road, this would not have happened. I reported this, moments later, to a senior officer; explaining that one of the officers had committed assault – he was not interested.
There are many examples of this Olympics benefiting elites at the expense of the poor. This includes shameful and unethical corporate sponsors and the destructive impact it has had on the people of East London. The Beckham incident represents this ethos, VIP lanes and VIP privileges, which are not the Beckham’s fault. These are the authority’s problem.
I eventually crossed a bridge, as many others did, and made my way towards Stratford; following a procession of riot vans. In Stratford, these vans were lined the streets, with officers kettling a group of cyclists who had done better exercising their rights to free movement.
When I arrived the police had kettled around one hundred cyclists, also I heard there were other kettles elsewhere and further arrests and assaults by police officers. These cyclists were taken away by the bus load, handcuffed with an officer per person. I overheard a senior policeman remark that they were going to various police stations, and their bike tagged and taken to a depot.
I missed the opening ceremony, and I imagine that it will fill the media tomorrow with national pride. Maybe there will be a few mentions of the cyclists, probably often in derogatory terms. The Daily Mail already seems to be towing this corporate line with an article that praises the police.
Even by the lows of the Daily Mail’s, one photo and caption shows the lack of integrity of their output.
The picture below has the caption, “A cyclist scuffles with police officers outside the Olympic Stadium.” Judging by the cyclists foot and the body angle, and the way the bike is off the ground; it looks more accurate to describe the scene as “Policeman dangerously lunges at cyclist, with support from three other officers as he cycles through a green light without any other cyclists anywhere near him.” You would think that if parts of the media were going to create such pro establishment propaganda – they could at least put some effort in.
Anyway, despite the draconian policing of today’s events, tomorrow is another day and there are more opportunities for me to do what I am told. So I will march and cycle and stay off the tube and will assemble with others for the Counter Olympics Demo – hopefully the police will be less violent, and maybe this years’ Olympic protests will be the greenest protests with the most sport-active of participants.
A video of the police officer, who was uninterested in another officer having committed assault.
[Correction of location, since speaking to someone stood next to me throughout the David Beckham/ police over reaction incident, I have found out that this took place coming off London Bridge and not Southwark Bridge. ]