London Critical Mass kettled and arrested

27.7.12

Coinciding with the Olympics opening ceremony, people are tweeting that over 100 cyclists are being put on coaches and arrested, after being kettled and some CS/pepper sprayed for cycling in Olympic-only lanes and breaking an imposed Section 12 forbidding going north of the river.  Cops ensured David Beckham could get through at one point by punching cyclists. 

Video (during)Video (arrested onto buses after).  2 reports below, and pre-CM 'why I'm going' (& this link to updated report):

More than 100 cyclists were arrested by police close to the Olympic Stadium on the opening night of the Games.

There were scuffles between police and cyclists on the outskirts of the Olympic Park, at about 22:30 BST.

People taking part in a monthly mass bike ride held in London said they were "kettled" near the stadium.

The Metropolitan Police said they had made arrests for Public Order offences but have not responded to the kettling claim.

The force said two groups had been detained - the first on Bow Flyover and the other in Warton Road, Stratford.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "A number of people in breach of regulations imposed on a monthly cycling event have been arrested."

In a statement, the force said the conditions on the cycle ride had been put in place "to prevent serious disruption to the community and the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games".

Kerry-Anne Mendoza, 31, who describes herself as a campaigner and writer, said: "We were cycling down the Bow Road [in Stratford] and the police directed us down a cul-de-sac.

"Then they kettled us in there. There is a line of police cars and vans behind that."

She added: "They have not communicated with us or told us why we are being held here or when they will let us out."

The regular Critical Mass ride is a pro-cycling event.

Joel Benjamin, who has been on a number of Critical Mass bike rides previously, said there were 400-500 cyclists who met on the south side of Waterloo Bridge.

"Usually there is a light police presence," he said. "Today there were far more police than I've seen before."

'Celebration of cycling'

He said police used a sound system to tell cyclists there were restrictions placed on the ride but not what it meant.

"Basically, they didn't want us to go north of the river. The police had put a roadblock stopping all traffic going north."

He said police took a "heavy-handed stance".

Scene close to Olympic Park
"I saw several cases of the police being aggressive and physical, dragging people off their bikes to the ground.

"I didn't see any arrests, but my friend, a solicitor was arrested.

"I left at about 8.30pm and managed to not get arrested, but I think around 100 people have been arrested.

"I guess there were people there who are against the Olympics, but Critical Mass is really a celebration of cycling, there was no need to get so heavy handed. "

The Met Police said a number of the arrested cyclists had been removed from the area near the Olympic Park.

The arrested cyclists have been detained under Section 12 of the Public Order Act.

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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. Then we headed to try Southwark Bridge, again this was blocked.

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.

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.

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Why I'm going to the Critical Mass this friday

Here's my reason why; back in 2005, we found out the news that London was going to host the Olympic games, lots of people in the media make comments about how much of a shit hole Stratford is, but truth is, its not really that shit, it's just an easy target for the developers, there's no one to defend it. Anyway since 2005 the amount of redevelopment with yuppy flats and Tescos popping up all over the town is out of control, the locals have been pushed to once side. I'm mates with a local Tory campaign, funny cause he's a tory, and all his constituents hate the Olympics, and he agrees. I'm assuming that after the Olympics like the Millenium Dome and Iraq, the top politicians will admit it was a bit of sham. Everywhere I go I hear people moaning about the Olympics, and then when I turn on the TV, I see nothing but smiling faces. Even my parents who are miserable, Daily Mail types want to see the VIP lanes blocked. We got taxis drivers moaning, dairy farmers out on strike, now its times for the opposite end of the spectrum to join in with the critical mass. When I heard about the critical mass, I thought it was time to give 'them' a hernia with stress. 130 quid fine for cycling in the VIP lane? that's an insult to the normal people who are stuck in London. Anyway over the years I've was part of the Summit Hopping movement, but no-one in London has realised all the Olympics is another political summit, and it should of been treated as such, with massive direct action, banner drops, etc etc. Anyway if your coming to the mass on friday, expect the police, GCHQ and they're other resources to really treat us like shit. On saturday a facebook event was blocked with in one-hour of its creation, I hope the girl who made the event doesn't use her own ip address. GCHQ are definitely going to watch this one. Probably a massive Copenhagen kettle on one of the bridges, or southbank, so keep your wits about you, ride a blue barclays bike, and ditch it if shit gets heavy lets not forget, the psycos of our Armed Forces are in London in numbers, and they can't tell the difference between an Afghan wedding and terrorist camp. Keep telling your mates, and invite them along. See you in the streets.

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