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West Midlands Police Sniffing Around Birmingham's Critical Mass

Still We Ride | 05.01.2013 16:32 | Free Spaces | Repression | Birmingham

I thought I'd post this up here even though the Facebook group appears to be the main platform where people communicate about the mass. This platform has numerous advantages over discussing issues such as this. Namely, there is a much higher degree of anonymity on here and less of a chance of them profiling us. We can also discuss some of the issues here without the narcissistic crap associated with social networking and in terms of process we can try and ensure consensus decision making is adhered to. At this point, I'd like to point out that as far as I know, nobody has the authority to make decisions on behalf of the mass in terms of where it meets or take the initiative to liaise with cops or Church officials without the consent of the mass as a whole.

The mass last night with the 'punk as fuck' theme, as it gathered in the grounds of the Cathedral, was met by cops on bikes who distributed letters. The text of the letters is viewable on the Facebook group or if you have reservations about corporate social networking sites then you can read the letters here:

Birmingham Cathedral letter to Birmingham Critical Mass
Birmingham Cathedral letter to Birmingham Critical Mass

PC 2858 McGrath's letter to Birmingham Critical Mass
PC 2858 McGrath's letter to Birmingham Critical Mass

There are certain claims made in the letters about noise levels and the mass that I think are at best exaggerated and more realistically instrumental. I find it hard to believe that 30 seconds or up to one minutes worth of music from a small soundsystem on a bike can penetrate a Cathedral with stone walls many inches thick.

There is also a historical context here that's difficult to ignore. Pigeon Park has always been a meeting point for people to socialise freely without spending any money and the powers that be have tried to curtail this. The park itself is one of the few places in town that doesn't resemble a corporate lego land. I also understand that the Church refused to accommodate Occupy Birmingham when it capitulated to the Council's demands to make way for the Christmas German Market. This appears to be in stark contrast to what happened at St. Paul's in London.

The letter also mentions a bye law about cycling that it doesn't reference. I also understand that it's highly likely that the grounds around the Cathedral are historically a public right of way so it would be problematic at least to 'ban' cycling. There is also less CCTV around the Cathedral grounds compared to that of Victoria Square. If you haven't read the letters linked above, then Victoria Square is being touted by the cops as an alternative meeting point for the mass.

Critical Mass has gained a lot of momentum in Birmingham over the last couple of years, numbers are consistently high even during the colder, wetter months. It has attracted people that are keen cyclists and others that embrace the aesthetic of cycling but probably have little experience of how the police gain a foothold in social movements. To these people I think we should point out that cops aren't your friends and they certainly aren't remotely sincerely interested in coming on our mass for the reasons that they may have told you last night.

If anyone has been on the London mass and talked to veterans there, they will learn how people regret the intrusion of the authorities in their mass. At the same time when the mass was threatened by the SOCPA legislation, unprecedented numbers of cyclists defied the ban. It's also worth pointing out that not so long ago cops in New York unleashed a whole load of repression against cyclists on Critical Mass. People refused to take their repression lying down and still they ride..

I'd like to hear what people think/interpret from last nights interventions by the cops on here rather than Facebook if that's possible, and wherever possible we can unite together to resist any intrusions or impositions they may try and enforce on us.


Still We Ride


Hide the following 7 comments


05.01.2013 17:33

It's hardly an unreasonable request and certainly not one based on political motives.

All the cathedral have done is asked for a more suitabe venue to be saught which does not interfere with their purpose, ie to provide religious services and a place for people to pray. It is a little disrespectful to use sound systems within the hearing distance of such a place, so they have communicated this to you.

The police, under their role of keepers of the peace, have been contacted by the cathedral for advise. They have taken a middle-ground on the issue and presented a solution which will please both parties - an alternative venue for Critical Mass where amps can be used, where it will not disrupt church services.

It can hardly be compared to the SOCPA legislation, which outlaws protest. In Birmingham, Critical Mass are simply being asked to use a more suitable venue.

In my opinion take up the offer.


PC 2585 Dominic McGrath lets the cat outta the bag

05.01.2013 18:40

Here's some more comments from the Birmingham Cyclist Forum where PC Dominic McGrath seems to have lost his good cop veneer:

Reply by CKS 3 hours ago
' It may not just be CM that the Cathedral have an issue with, there are normally several dozen teenagers hanging around there on a Saturday afternoon. Most of them seem to have moved down the road to Victoria Square for some reason today as well.'


Reply by Rich22222 59 minutes ago
'Dominic, if you speak to the Dean please let her know that the group will no longer play music within the grounds of St Philips.

I will do my best to keep that true.

Now go and catch some criminals in cars. ;)

Reply by PC 2858 Dominic MCGRATH 55 minutes ago
'Dear all,

I can confirm the Grounds are private property and they belong to the Church of England. West Midlands Police are accountable for every complaint that may lead to prosecution. The church have requested the police assistance as all thier attempts to change the meeting location has been ignored and they have had no choice but to get us involved.

I understand that this may have been a meeting point for years gone by but the fact remains it is Private property and there is a bye law that prohibits any cycling. The Church have stated that for noise and Health and Safety reasons, the Cathedral cannot be a meeting point anymore.

Victoria Square is a big open area only 200 metres away and will cater for all. I have had alot of very understanding people / replies and are willing to change location without hesitation however, understandably there are also other members who feel they are being bullied and it's there Human Right to go where they wish. We have to remember that this is a place of Worship and should be respected if you are religous or not. I am desperately trying to resolve this issue as peacefully as possible and do understand each persons point but this comes down to a matter of Law not opinions.

The very last thing West Midlands police wish to do is get involved and start prosecuting people and persons gaining fines and Criminal Records.

Warmest Regards,


Hipster has an epithany

PC 2585 Dominic McGrath's mask slips again

06.01.2013 13:14

"A message from PC 2858 Dominic MCGRATH to all members of Critical Mass on Birmingham Cyclist!

Dear all,
Can I respectfully request that the next meet up avoids St Philips cathedral as we have had several complaints ref the noise during choir service which starts at 17:45 hrs. Victoria square has plenty of space and is a full public area and noise will be less of a problem. The grounds of the cathederal are private property and bye laws are in place which prohibits any cycling. There have been no other complaints within the City and we welcome any event which brings the community together. I thank you in advance. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Would there be any objections if cycle officers completed a small part of the route with the group at the next meet? This would be to get to know each other and simply enjoy the ride. If you would rather not then I understand? Thanks once again,

wake up and smell the coffee!


07.01.2013 17:41

Anyone notice the date on the cop's letter? It says 2012!

Where's my donuts?

"Reasonable request"?

07.01.2013 21:06

It's bizarre to claim that this isn't "an unresonable request";there's not been a request at all, and no indication that there's a concern until this month, when "Community Support officers" turned up to serve the Massive with the letters.

When I turned up at Pigeon Park it was, obviously, Friday rush hour and there were, as ever, horns blaring and general wahala. The Cathedral is in the city centre. It's insane to suggest that the noise the Mass makes in the square for a minute is more obtrusive than anything that might be heard as a matter of routine. But that said, had anyone from the cathedral actually had the common decency to come and ask for the noise to be kept down a bit, in the spirit of tolerance and goodwill I understood the organisation to promote, rather than reporting us to the police, the mood of everyone present would be to co-operate.