imc london | 28.10.2005 18:26 | London
"...it's a friday night, it's like a fucking party, it's like an RTS on bikes!"
Cyclist from Birmingham
Friday, Oct 28. Almost 1000 cyclists soon growing to a critical mass of an estimated minimum of 2000 cycled around central London. The meeting point was nearby the restricted SOCPA zone in front of the National Film Theatre. The CM moved on to Parliament Square and Downing Street. The samba band was on wheels for the occasion and many were in Halloween attire.
Pics [1 | 2 | 3] Pic-reports [1 | 2 | 3] Reports  Video reports [1 | 2]
This is the first London Critical Mass ride after participants were informed about possible arrests at future Critical Mass rides. The Metropolitan Police demanded that the 'organisers' give notice of the route in advance [report].
The Serious Organised Crime And Police Act 2005 was brought in to ban demonstrations within a one mile radius of Parliament, and to remove the very embarrising presence of Peace Activist Brian Haw. It has been defied on a number of occasions since it was introduced this summer with arrest and demonstrations. Background [1 | 2 | 3 | 4]And here is a copy of rikki's report on the night:
this month there was a call-out for a large critical mass in response to police threats to 'enforce legislation' to treat it as a protest requiring organisation and application for permission. the response to the call-out was absolutely huge, with 1,200 cyclists (that's just the official police estimate!) taking over the streets of central london in a wonderfully anarchic and self-policing jaunt round the capital.
as well as several loud sound systems, the 'rhythms of resistance' samba band took to trikes, rickshaws, roller-blades, and bikes, to provide a fantastic carnival soundtrack to the ride that had passers-by dancing in the streets.
apart from a few irate drivers, and, it has to be said, the daily mail-fed vitriol of a few stereotypical taxi drivers (though many were cool too), the response was generally good-natured considering the traffic havoc caused.
despite the threatening letter of the previous month, it seems the police had reconsidered their authoritarian stance, and provided a truly excellent and sensible facilitation of the ride, mainly consisting of calming down any drivers who tried to take the law into their own hands, and occasionally aiding blocking junctions as the mass passed (although the sheer size meant that they couldn't be at all relevant junctions at all times and much of this was left to cyclists themselves). legal observers reported no known arrests, and in fact virtually no trouble anywhere. the policing comprised just approximately 20 outriders on bicycles and one van following - there was some concern about the 'shoot-to-kill policy' when it was spotted that police bikes carried the logo of gun manufacturers 'smith&wesson', but thankfully there were no assassinations last night.
the route went slowly over waterloo bridge, along the strand, through the mall (taking it completely over at times), past buck house, and then down to parliament square, where the new 'serious organised crime act' legislation banning protest in and around the square is supposed to be in force.
it demonstrates the arbitrary, farcical nature of this law that on tuesday morning just two people with banners from campaigning group 'justice not vengeance' were arrested for a protest outside downing street, one of them possibly facing up to 51 weeks in prison for being an 'organiser', while last night, more than a thousand cyclists cleared the square of traffic, parked up, danced to the sound of the samba band, and used amplified sound systems to shout anti-war and anti-government slogans. there were no arrests!
in their own time, after about twenty minutes, the procession rode up whitehall, stopping outside downing street and holding up their bikes in the air in front of the gates, then on slowly up through trafalgar square and charing cross road to centrepoint, where crowds joined in the samba dancing in the streets for a while. heading west along oxford street, they flooded into the oxford circus junction, in what looked like a scene from the infamous mayday (2001?) when police kettled a huge crowd at this spot for many hours. last night however, the twenty police bicyclists just watched in amusement and helped stop the traffic while the colourful mob celebrated their freedom for a while before making their way down regent's street to piccadilly circus for another rest.
by now it was nearly half past ten, the mass had got a little split up, and everyone one was winding down. gradually the wheeled massive congregated off-road on the upper part of trafalgar square, set up the sound system, cracked open the beers and smokes, and had a post-mass party for a while. the police left, people began to drift away in to the night, and on to various parties, the rain started up, and a peaceful, empowering, celebratory experience was over for another month.
if you missed it and want to come along, the next one is the 25th november. if you came and enjoyed it (how could you not?), then see you all next month too.
more details on the www.criticalmasslondon website.
It was great to see so many people out on the ride last month, the ride was slow because people acted like sheep and stood around at every junction waiting to be told what to do, rather than leaving those who wanted to bait cars and cops to it and pushed through to join the front of the ride.
This is not however the end, but don't ignore the threat, there is even more reason to build up numbers for this Friday 25th Nov, the cold weather will cut numbers, and those of us out to defend our right to ride will be no less likely to be hassled by the police than last month.
So don't celebrate too soon, get out there, wrap up warm and stick with the mass.
CMLondon cyclist since 1998