Critical Mass Miami has blown up over the past year. The last-Friday-of-the-month rides now regularly draw more than 2,000 cyclists at a time. Even celebs such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Gabrielle Union have participated.
But there are signs that the movement is experiencing some growing pains, not least of all tension with cops. During last Friday night's ride, Miami Police officers were booed and pelted with objects after arresting local chef Aleric "AJ" Constantin for selling ice cream out of a cart on his bicycle.
"I basically spent a day and a half in jail for selling ice cream," Constantin says. "Pretty much from the get-go, the officers seemed really focused on breaking up the whole mass."
Constantin, a line cook at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, first took his specially outfitted food bike to Critical Mass in April. He's quickly made a name for himself by handing out free samples of his outrageous flavors, such as orange mango saffron ice cream with mint-infused whipped cream. After all, everyone likes ice cream. Right?
At the end of Friday's two-hour, 20-mile bike ride, Constantin and friend Hunter Hoover were eating tater-tots in front of the Filling Station on SE Second Street at First Avenue in downtown. Two young Miami Police officers were walking through the throngs of cyclists and warning them not to block traffic. ("They were pretty vocal about despising the event," Constantin says.)
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Around 10 p.m., one of the officers approached Constantin just as he was selling some ice cream to a fellow cyclist. The cop asked the chef if he had a license to sell his dessert. Constantin handed over his driver's license and said that all of his paperwork was in order. Moreover, he had permission from the Filling Station to be there.
AJ Constantin and his ice-cream bicycle
But that wasn't good enough for the officer. He demanded that Constantin leave, Hoover says. When Constantin asked for his ID back, the cop told him he could have it as soon he was packed and ready to go.
"I'm not even driving a car," Constantin said. "Why do you need my ID?"
"Oh, you want to get arrested?" the cop replied, according to Hoover.
(Riptide has requested a copy of the police report, but it was not available Monday. We will update this post as soon as we obtain the report. A Miami Police spokesman declined to comment.)
Constantin was quickly cuffed and thrown into a squad car on misdemeanor charges of operating without a license and resisting arrest without violence. He was also ticketed for violating vending restrictions.
But as cops cuffed the chef, boos and trash began raining down from all directions.
"Everybody was booing and throwing plates and items and things I don't remember at the cops," Hoover says. "It was crazy. It was out of control. The entire Critical Mass was up in arms."
"When they were moving me to the cop car, that's when the bottles started flying," Constantin says.
The besieged officers called for backup, and half-dozen squad cars soon pulled up. Amazingly, it appears as if no one else was arrested.
The Critical Mass route for Friday, June 28.
Constantin, however, was not so lucky. He was transferred from one jail to another. "Then they lost my paperwork," he says. "I was in a cell by myself, with no water for more than a day. It was an amazing and complete disregard for life. It was a huge clusterfuck."
The chef finally bonded out Sunday morning: roughly 30 hours in the slammer for slinging that 'scream.
But both Constantin and Hoover say the incident is really about more than one man's bogus arrest. It's about how Critical Mass has grown so large that cops can't ignore it anymore.
"They are definitely fed up with it," Constantin says. "At the police station, they all hated it, saying things like, 'Fuck that bike bullshit.' They don't respect the biking community or the fact that we have the right to share the road. They look at us like a bunch of dumbasses on bikes."
"That cop couldn't wait to arrest my friend," Hoover says. "In his eyes, his face, his gestures, he was ready to arrest him all night. [The cops] were longing for it, like a little kid waiting for a teddy bear."
Hoover admits Critical Mass has grown so fast that it's gotten unruly at times. But he says he and other bikers are working to fix those problems. And cops don't have to pick fights with the cyclists.
"As soon as we entered Miami Beach territory, Beach cops... came out and immediately started to assist us by blocking off the streets," he says. "We didn't organize it with them, but they were still helpful and polite with us.
"But as soon as we got into the City of Miami once again, that was nowhere to be found," he says. "Where are your standards, City of Miami cops? Where are you rules? You're supposed to be helping people or fighting crime or something... not arresting kids for selling ice cream on a bicycle."
Below is the police report for Constantin's arrest. In it, cops say the chef "pulled away" from them as they were handcuffing him.
Constantin denies resisting arrest, and says that contrary to cops' claims, he has never been warned not to sell ice cream.
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