The Bike Blog couldn’t make it, but last Friday’s tenuous Critical Mass-esque ride did, in fact, materialize. The event was fashioned after Critical Mass rides in other cities, which generally take place on the last Friday of every month. Assuming this event continues on a monthly basis, this means that Miami – a veritable Valhalla of car-loving sidewalk-shunning gas guzzlers -- has acquired no less than two Critical Mass rides in the space of about six months. Wow!
The Friday ride, according to a few sources, was a success – especially if you count having the cops show up as a good sign. According to Kevin Gonzales, who helped organize the event, he and three other bikers were sitting in front of the Torch of Freedom at Bayside Park, waiting for other riders, when a police car from the Miami Police Department pulled up onto the sidewalk.
“We didn’t think too much about it,” says Gonzales. “Then another car pulls up. We thought, that’s a little weird. And then a paddy wagon pulled up, and then people on foot. I think it got up to five cop cars.”
Gonzales says the group split up and headed downtown, with the Miami PD at their heels. “They caught up with us again,” he says, “and they just followed us the whole ride.” No arrests were made, he says, nor did the police explain why they were following the group, which grew to about fifteen people. “We tried to see how far they would follow us . . . we took advantage and rode through the worst neighborhoods we could.”
At the ride’s end, the group gathered near the Intercontinental Hotel downtown. The police, he said, kept their beams on the bikers until they dispersed.
In other cities, police presence at Critical Mass gatherings is par for the course – sometimes they’ll even assist the events by closing off streets. But why the police attended such a small ride, why they sent a paddy wagon and multiple squad cars, and why they followed the riders, is a mystery. So far, the City of Miami Police Department has not returned calls from the Bike Blog asking for an explanation of the deployment.
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But the real question is this: How did the City of Miami Police know about the ride in the first place? Friday’s ride was a first – it’s not as if there was a history of disturbances to justify police presence. More importantly, the ride hadn’t been publicized. Beyond having been mentioned at a recent meeting of activist group Emerge Miami – which does not sponsor the event – and besides having been written about in the Bike Blog, the event was purely a word-of-mouth affair.
Are the Miami PD gathering intelligence on local bikers? Are the organizers of Friday’s ride the subjects of police surveilance? Is it possible that the City of Miami Police Department actually reads the Bike Blog? We will continue to investigate.
In the meantime, stay tuned – and watch where you bike. --Isaiah Thompson