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.

31 Responses to "Caught on Tape: Hollywood LAPD Bash Bicyclists During BP Protest Ride"
Suzanne | Saturday May 29, 2010 11:50 pm 1

geez lisa… lapd seems determined to make the same mistakes over and over

CherryTheTart | Sunday May 30, 2010 12:53 am 2

They must be stupid. Corn snorting pea picking stupid.

Phoenix Woman | Sunday May 30, 2010 07:15 am 3

The folks of Critical Mass aren’t going to win any Dale Carnegie awards, but the LAPD are being stone thugs and idiots. Reminds me forcibly of how Sideshow Bob Fletcher thought teargassing crowds who dared to try and make the RNC conventioneers notice them was a smart move during St. Paul’s RNC event in 2008.

rlptripp | Sunday May 30, 2010 07:30 am 4

Constitutionally, a traffic citation is sufficient grounds for a cop to “detain” a person long enough to issue the appropriate citation. Practically speaking, cops often use traffic stops to elicit permission to search or conduct an illegal search, or — in this case — to provoke an incident resulting in an arrest. Many people are genuinely surprised that a cop will not only respond to civilian attitude with brutality, but will then lie about it on his report or on the witness stand. Moral: if you intend to stand up to the police, make sure your group is organized and be ready to document the incident and testify. The National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles Chapter website provides information on both “right to protest” and “legal observing” . For large protests, the Guild will also provide their own, trained legal observers.

masaccio | Sunday May 30, 2010 08:15 am 5

Just another example of the lousy training of the LAPD and its bully boys. These guys are going to hate the end of prohibition.

newtonusr | Sunday May 30, 2010 07:09 pm 6

“What’s the charge, Officer?”

“Being last, and being least likely to have a camera running…”


Nathan Aschbacher | Sunday May 30, 2010 07:11 pm 7

This is how you know we’re properly trained to be obedient.

When you have a huge mass of citizens peacefully assembling, they witness the law enforcement taking a turn for the egregiously authoritarian, and somehow the term “police brutality” doesn’t end up taking on new meaning in the American lexicon; despite the fact that the impudent law enforcement personel are vastly out-numbered.

Twain | Sunday May 30, 2010 07:20 pm 8

I don’t approve of police officers beating anyone but Critical Mass is not just a group of people who want to ride their bikes. They have in the past created absolute chaos in SF for people who simply are trying to get home in their cars. We don’t have great transportation in the Bay Area and cars are needed. They have done damage to cars, screamed and yelled at drivers and done everything they could to harass people. They don’t get a whole lot of sympathy from me.

Nathan Aschbacher | Sunday May 30, 2010 07:48 pm 9
In response to Twain @ 8

Yeah! We need more civil-disobedience and rabble-rousing that doesn’t inconvenience anyone or raise any eyebrows!

RickinSF | Sunday May 30, 2010 08:11 pm 10
In response to Twain @ 8

Critical Mass happens in SF on the last Friday of the month, so I plan accordingly.
I’m not a hick.

Sparkatus | Sunday May 30, 2010 08:26 pm 11
In response to Twain @ 8

People in cars make my life difficult and more dangerous just about every day. Today some jackass from NJ made a “right on red” and almost ran down my wife and daughter as I watched helplessly from across the avenue with our son. Person didn’t even stop.

Note to people from outside New York: here, it is illegal to go through a red light. Period.

Drivers menace bikers and pedestrians all the time; just like today with my family. Cars are inherently threats. Funny how it’s the bicyclists that get beaten up though. It’s a power thing, I suspect. More of a risk to tackle cars or stick a baton in the works

ThingsComeUndone | Sunday May 30, 2010 08:27 pm 12

Lisa who at BP has juice with the Hollywood police? Look at campaign contributions from BP or BP employees to the Sherif, Mayor etc.
Cops don’t do shit this stupid in this large a group without an order.
This was not a few bored bad cops taking things to far. To arrest this many people you need numbers to avoid the police getting beat up and you need paddy wagons, several paddy wagons. Do the Hollywood police even have more than 2 paddy wagons?
If not they called other police depts for help. That means someone higher up greased the wheels a police commissioner perhaps?

ThingsComeUndone | Sunday May 30, 2010 08:28 pm 13

No TV here is the Media covering this?

prostratedragon | Sunday May 30, 2010 08:29 pm 14
In response to rlptripp @ 4

This also reminds me that during some of the hottest days of civil rights movement demonstrations, open participation was encouraged only during huge, formal marches with parade permits and the like.

Smaller, day-to-day actions, and I would think the split-off group fit the concept, were limited to the trained and prepared. Both large and small demonstrations often had marshals designated from within the organizing groups at least to serve as part of the corps of observers rlptripp mentions.

And definitely, preparation should include equipping bikes and so forth, to keep those bullies from having an easy excuse to hurt demonstrators and distract from the cause. A demonstration is more performance art (and kind of an operation) than picnic, and needs something like a professional attitude.

Excuse the preaching, but I hate to see the pressure shifted off where it belongs.

Bluetoe2 | Sunday May 30, 2010 09:15 pm 15

The cops probably wanted a little something extra for that time when they put in their applications to Xe. Fascism can’t exist without the muscle.

peterboy | Sunday May 30, 2010 09:20 pm 16
In response to Twain @ 8

you heard of bart?
how could you possibly be serious?

Sparkatus | Sunday May 30, 2010 09:35 pm 17
In response to Twain @ 8

Yelling at drivers? Horrible.

I’ve never had a driver honk at me or in other situations where they have been inconvenienced. Though perhaps they have been directed at me. So difficult with horns: you just can’t tell what they are saying or who they are saying it to.

I just wish that drivers would constrain their honking to the last Friday of the month between 5 and 7pm. Now that would be neighborly.

NoOneYouKnow | Sunday May 30, 2010 10:19 pm 18

The NYPD took after Manhattan’s Critical Mass ride for well over a year. Physical assaults, bikes confiscated en masse, harassment of riders even after the ride, etc. I think it just annoyed Ray Kelly and Bloomie that bicyclists were carrying out nonviolent protest in their town on a regular basis, so they had people beaten up for it.
Authoritarians and sociopaths are really screwing up society.

ThingsComeUndone | Sunday May 30, 2010 11:48 pm 19
In response to NoOneYouKnow @ 18

I must remember to join this group a razor wire whip with a weight on the end twirled in a circle should clear the police. Or if I wrap it in felt and the rock in a nerf football they will never know what hit them.

Lisa Derrick | Monday May 31, 2010 12:47 am 20
In response to ThingsComeUndone @ 12

No pay offs, just pissed off cops.

The Hollywood Division is overstressed undermanned and dealing with tourists. The majority of LAPD involved in following the riders were okay and helpful, according to reports, but as the division borders changed, it seems to have gotten ugly. The cops the Hollywood must have been a little freaked out–after all they have tourism dollars to worry about. From 2007 to 2009 I was involved in (no permits, but legal) protests the Hollywood and neighboring Northeast Divisions and was our group’s police liaison (which meant calling the police and letting them know we’d be there and for how long, and making sure our people kept the sidewalks clear and had legally compliant signs).

The NE LAPD officers were much easier to deal with and reasonable. Hollywood PD were getting pressure from the people we were protesting who owned LOTS property in Hwd and gave $ to community programs, had paid for street video surveillance cameras for the Hwd division etc.

Plus there are the tourists who must be protected from seeing civil disobedience ;D

So I understood why we got more grief there. BUT knocking over bicyclists is dreadful

Like rltripp, I urge any group to look at National Lawyers Guild’s information pages and contact them for observers if they are planning a large demonstration. I saw their work close up from behind poilice lines during the prop 8 protests negotiating and making sure marchers could proceed safely(bright green baseball caps make ‘em easy to spot) and they are awesome.

racetoinfinity | Monday May 31, 2010 01:35 am 21
In response to NoOneYouKnow @ 18

yeah, especially the rich powerful ones that the thugs work for.

michaellarocca | Monday May 31, 2010 01:58 am 22

The last time I drove a motor vehicle was December 8, 1999, but I wasn’t protesting anything. I just switched to the bicycle because I got tired of spending money.

February 14, 2010, I was rear-ended by a Toyota Hilux. No cops involved. And as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. But it does remind me of Johnny Yune.

“I was once run over by a Toyota. Oh what a feeling.”

GeorgeJohnston | Monday May 31, 2010 02:09 am 23

So… police will rough up cyclists protesting the evil that BP has done. Has it occurred to any of them it is the BP executives who should be arrested?

razorbrain | Monday May 31, 2010 06:15 am 24

“They” use violence so freely. “We” are not even permitted to mention or have fantasies or wishes about it.

Who do you think will win this battle? And why?

sonofloud | Monday May 31, 2010 06:29 am 25

Living in SF I can testify that Critical Mass is a bunch of obnoxious assholes and I absolutely believe that they would attack someone’s car.
Just because I happen to share the same cause with them in this instance doesn’t make them any less inconsiderate.

sonofloud | Monday May 31, 2010 06:32 am 26
In response to Nathan Aschbacher @ 9

The key is to inconvenience those that are causing the problem, not innocent people who are just trying to get from point A to point B.

Michael LaRocca | Monday May 31, 2010 06:48 am 27

The last time I drove a motor vehicle was December 8, 1999, but I wasn’t protesting anything. I just switched to the bicycle because I got tired of spending money.

February 14, 2010, I was rear-ended by a Toyota Hilux. No cops involved. And as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. But it does remind me of Johnny Yune.

“I was once run over by a Toyota. Oh what a feeling.”

Sparkatus | Monday May 31, 2010 08:57 am 28

In this situation, who are the people causing the problem that Critical Mass is protesting?

I think it’s actually quite targeted. Cars are incredibly resource intensive from a public policy perspective: road rights-of-way, highways, traffic signals, traffic cops, dwi, accident response… They demand and get the vast majority of transportation dollars and skew municipal priorities in their direction.

To get any attention, bikes and pedestrians need to take visible action. For a brief moment in time, riders in critical mass flip the inconvenience factor. It doesn’t take that many minutes for a couple hundred bikes to pass by. It really is a minor inconvenience, even to motorists directly affected.

ThingsComeUndone | Monday May 31, 2010 10:02 am 29
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 20

Plus there are the tourists who must be protected from seeing civil disobedience ;D

Tourists expect to see Lefty protests in Liberal Hollywood.

ThingsComeUndone | Monday May 31, 2010 10:03 am 30

Any word on Lawsuits? Also are you sure nobody got any cash from BP?

garagehero | Tuesday June 1, 2010 11:31 pm 31

To be fair, and I’m a bicyclist myself,( being the first biker to climb Ewing, Baxter and Fargo back on a beach cruiser in 1974), some of these bicyclists are real ass-holes. A while back I saw them clog an intersection in Echo Park, and as a family in a van tried to slowly make its way through, they were attacked by 20 or 30 of the bicyclists, who kicked and punched the van and windows. The folks inside, and their children were of course terrified. And its no secret these mass bike rides are rolling beer-guzzling parties.

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