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Saturday, August 28, 2004

Report from the front lines

One of the men in the group I went to Venezuela with lives in New York, and witnessed some of the critical mass arrests there last night:
Last night about 9:00 I walked out of my 13th street flat and found a stream of bikers coming down Seventh Ave, all at ease, a very happy bunch, some gesturing with V signs and a few waggling upraised fists. They just kept coming for several minutes as a crowd gathered on the corner. We started chanting "Our streets, our streets" Across the
street were two police vans and about a dozen cops, watching, doing nothing. Down the street were a couple of police cars at skew angles to the curbs.

When the stream had diminished considerably, the police deployed across the street, blocking it with a thin line of cops and some kind of flimsy barricade material. They also consulted with a biker who was evidently one of theirs, an infiltrator. Not satisfied with this maneuver, they abandoned their line and drifted around. A few straggling bikers then sought to come through the intersection. These stragglers
were seized and forced off their bikes. They were handcuffed, while I and others stood, retreating to the sidewalk, feeling menaced with arrest ourselves. "Why are they being arrested?" I asked the overweight cop who faced me, holding a nightstick. "I dunno," he replied.

A woman with a video camera shouted across to the distant biker: "I'm from the National Lawyers Guild. What's your name?" She was evidently afraid to venture out in the middle of the street where four cops surrounded a biker. One biker shouted his name and after several tries she got it down. Many of us were then interviewed by someone who seemed to be from an indy new group.

Overhead, several blocks away what appeared to be a flying saucer with dim lights hovered. We made out a blimp. I walked away and across the Village heading for dinner. All the restaurants were jammed with their usual weekend land office business. A helicopter joined the blimp, searching over the street with a light. On Third Avenue there was a crowd several blocks north. I thought I could hear a chant of "Let them go".

An hour later coming back to Third Avenue, cops were lounging next to a line of their shiny new Italian scooters. The helicopter was still overhead.