31, 1998: Speech in Justin Herman Plaza by Chris Carlsson
So we all got here by streaming through the
daily gridlock that is curiously considered `normal' in this society. One of the
reasons we gather here month after month is that we refuse the insanity that masquerades
as transportation policy in this society.
One year ago 98% of the cyclists that rode
in Critical Mass had a beautiful, euphoric experience, filling the streets of
San Francisco and turning the transportation landscape on its head.
When we flipped on the news that night we saw
our experience distorted and misrepresented as though it had been reflected through
funhouse mirrors. We had lived through one experience, and something quite different
was broadcast to the world as the truth.
A joyful, exuberant experience was characterized
as widespread chaos and mayhem, supposedly caused by bicyclists.
This is a Big Lie. What really happened is
that we were subjected to a police riot at Market and Powell. Several people were
injured and falsely arrested. A short time later police staged an illegal mass
arrest of over 100 cyclists on Sacramento Street. The newspaper’s hysterical report
of 250 arrests turned out to be more like 130. All the charges were eventually
dropped. Not a single person was convicted or fined as a result of that night.
No property damage was reported, except the cameras and bicycles broken by police
We now know that Mayor Brown’s office was closely
monitoring the situation until almost 10 p.m. that night. Minimal bike improvements
that activists have worked for for the past 4 years were rejected last Saturday
by the DPT. This is just the latest demonstration of the contempt this administration
has for cycling. Mayor Brown is committed to the lining the pockets of his developer
friends, not to making San Francisco a city taking a creative and innovative approach
to life in the coming century.
Critical Mass is not about sound bite politics.
We aren’t riding to get 30 seconds on the evening news, or even to get a biased,
misinformed article in the Saturday papers. The mass media is not our friend.
Why would corporate entertainment businesses broadcast an honest account of citizens
who reject this absurd organization of life? When we ride together we create a
new public space. We share direct experiences and develop a truer sense of life
than one ever gets from the media. Part of our task is to make the truth of our
lived experiences more powerful than the lies of the mass media.
By riding our bicycles we are saying NO to
oil wars, Chevron, Shell, General Motors, and Ford, environmental catastrophe
and an isolated, fearful way of life. When we ride in Critical Mass we say YES
to imagination, ecological sanity, and a rich urban life.
Take care of each other, and watch your