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Riders, Police Clash At Critical Mass

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Jun 28, 2010 6:00PM

Over the weekend, we received numerous reports from readers of a clash between riders in Friday's Critical Mass ride and Chicago Police officers. The clash took place at the end of the ride near Grant Park where police were on duty for the annual Taste of Chicago event. According to eyewitnesses, the mass had reached the end of its route when it turned on to Lakeshore Drive where they met up with police. A confrontation occurred between a rider and an officer which resulted in the officers using force to arrest the rider. It's still unclear what the original provocation was for the first incident, though some witnesses have said the rider may have been kicking over traffic cones. Things escalated when another biker tried to film the police subduing the first rider, which is technically illegal when done without consent in Illinois and 11 other states. Police then subdued the second rider. An eyewitness named Anne wrote in, saying, "A police officer was spraying pedestrians and cyclists with pepper spray," a claim backed up by another rider involved. Another eyewitness, Blair, told us via email:

About 100 feet ahead of me (I'd say there were about 100 bikers in front of me at this point), I saw a biker shoved to the ground while he was riding by one of these cops. The force he was using seemed excessive from the beginning. The biker was holding his head as it just hit the pavement. Three cops were immediately on him. Soon one was hitting him with a baton and another ran over with pepper spray. All of the bikers immediately started to jump over onto the lakefront path to avoid the same thing from happening to them. Another biker got off his bike and started to take photos/video (couldn't tell which as I was in front of him) of the excessive force being used. Another group of police jumped on this biker and started to do the same thing. At one point I saw five officers on this one biker. The only time I saw him resisting was pulling his upper arm to his face while he was being pepper sprayed in the eyes.

This is the incident captured in the above video (another angle of the incident here). There are more photos of both the initial and secondary incidents here as well.

Of course, there are two sides to every story. This isn't the first time Critical Mass riders and police have clashed and there's still plenty of question surrounding what instigated the entire incident, including the alleged confrontational behavior by the first rider. Other alleged eyewitness accounts tell a different story, including that the first rider resisted arrest. It's also worth noting bike's are prohibited on Lake Shore Drive where the incident took place. While the above footage shows the subduing of the second offender, there's no footage of the first alleged take-down by police. Previous allegations of instigating behavior by Critical Mass riders - including last summer when some riders allegedly blocked an ambulance - has circulated as well. We reached out to the Chicago Police department earlier this morning for comment on the story. They've yet to respond to our request for comment but we'll update the post when they do.