Dead Men Left

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Critical Massive

Our old friends the Met have decided to have a bit of a clampdown on the monthly Critical Mass event in London. For those unfamiliar, this is a gathering of cyclists who meet up to zoom around London in a posse - possibly in an effort to reclaim the streets, possibly just for the sheer hell of it, no-one seems bothered about which best applies.

nyone who cycles in London will know that its streets are a death-trap for the two-wheeled. Dedicated cycle-lanes and little more thought in road-planning would help, less cars all over would be excellent, but in the meantime this kind of collective riding is one way to keep a little safer.

Critical Mass has, whatever its particular purpose, very little to do with serious and organised crime, but that has not stopped the police, at last month's events, treating it as if it was. It's ridiculous when you first see it done (or, for that matter, any time subsequently), but as a result of the Serious and Organised Crime Act, the Met have taken to handing out little leaflets to those they deem to be protesting in central London. Critical Massers were greeted with Superintendent Gomm's special missive, as distributed by his underlings:

Critical Mass Cycle Demonstrations

Organisers of public processions are required by law to notify police at least 6 days before the event occurs of the date, time, proposed route and the name and address of an organiser. Failure to do so makes the event unlawful

Demonstrations within a designated area around Parliament must also be notified, and anyone taking part in an unauthorised demonstration commits an offence.

Police can impose conditions on processions, demonstrations and other assemblies, and participants render themselves liable to arrest if they fail to comply with those conditions.

These cycle protests are not lawful because no organiser has provided police the with the necessary notification. Your participation in this event could render you liable to prosecution. Police policy in facilitating these events is currently under review.

The petty-mindedness of this is what makes it so irritating: police "facilitation" of Critical Mass is completely unnecessary, large groups of cyclists being able to look after themselves, and the cops' presence appears to be largely treated by them as an opportunity to film and photograph those taking part. There's the sniffy assumption that "protesters" ought to be asking the police for permission, if they must protest at all, and that also rankles.

Next Critical Mass is on the last Friday in October (28th), assembling at the usual place in central London about 6ish. The hope is that this will be one of the biggest yet.