Police cars crowd Bike Party, drive dangerously

On the 10th of September, several DC cops assigned to or othewise escorting the monthly Bike Party drive their cars in ways that made some of the riders feel they were being put as risk for a collision. They muscled their cars directly into the packs of riders, followed riders ahead of them too closely, and as a result had to make sudden stops that put riders behind them at risk of ramming the police cruisers if they could not stop quickly.

Video of the ride showing police interactions

The most dangerous conditions occurred on two lane roads, where police cars were able to block the entire lane going the direction of the ride. On wider roads the intrusion of the police cars was less dangerous because there was more room to get around them when they stopped too quickly, and may not have followed riders as closely when they were less densely packed. As usual there were over 600 riders in the Bike Party, I do not know if this was just cops unused to driving in such close proximity to cyclists or an organized plan to harass the rides so as to reduce turnout.

There were also strong efforts by these same police to break up the large packs of riders when traffic lights changed. The lead elements of these rides only cross intersections on green, but the length of the ride often causes lights to change before all riders can pass. Serious police aggression such as the throwing open of doors or attempts to tackle riders did not occur, either not being intended in the first place or just because police were outnumbered nearly 100-1. Still, the moves by police near traffic lights reminded me of police aggression at intersections during the Oct 2002 IMF Critical Mass ride that later ended up at Pershing Park.

As this aggression angered riders some began to respond by pushing through the intersections, neutralizing some of the police efforts to divide the ride up at intersections with changing lights. As the ride continued the police cruisers found themselves at the very end of the ride shortly before 9PM, out of most rider’s hair. I do not know if this situation later escalated because I had to break off to cover the antiwar protest that met Obama’s Iraq speech at 9PM the same nght.

If even one bicyclist is injured as a result of careless or aggressive driving by police, the city could face significant legal judgements in court. If the police insist on trying to control the Bike Parties, they should at least learn to drive their cars in a way that does not create a risk of dangerous car-bike collisions

Years ago, in 2002 and into 2003 under former Mayor Williams and former police chief Ramsey there was an ugly string of police confrontations with the politicized Critical Mass rides of that era, I will explain that history below:

In both the Spring and Fall 2002 IMF special Critical Mass rides, the police objective was to arrest all riders and in both cases they failed utterly. The Spring 2002 IMF ride had about 220 riders, a little more than a third the size of a Bike Party but far more aggressive. It took police over 2 hours just to maneuver into position for an attempt at a mass arrest. The whole front line charged into the police line of bike cops, breaking up their formation and leading to the escape of all but 37 riders. When former Chief Ramsey tried to hold those bikes as “evidence,” but quickly changed his mind after threats that 37 “yuppie bikes” would be stolen as replacements.

Close police escort of the July 2002 Critical Mass was followed by an all-out attack on the August 2002 ride, that again netted only a few riders out of an attempt to arrest every rider. First police showed up at the Dupont Circle assembly point threatening to arrest any group ride. A fake dispersal was followed by a covert reassembly at another location. The police resorted to a helicopter to find the ride, and in a fury staged another mass arrest attempt. This time they got only TWO riders, I still remember having to use the taller buildings in the GWU area as oblique cover to dodge that helicopter while I made my way to a bridge into Virigina, where I stayed until that chopper landed. Adam Eidinger reported at the time that cop claimed a complaint from the Mayor was the cause of this operation

For the Fall 2002 “People’s Strike” Critical Mass Ramsey considered but discarded a plan to attempt to sieze all unregistered bikes at the Union Station assembly point, a conspiracy that was cited by the DC City Council when they abolished mandatory bicycle registration a few years later.

At the start of the Iraq War in 2003, there were Critical Mass bike rides twice a week. One of them was attacked by 340 motorcycle cops, then NO cops as the next ride after threats to block the Potomac River bridges were made. When police harassment, often citing bicycle registration as an excuse returned, former Councilmember Kathleen Patterson threatend to ride with us, and the harassment ended until September 10, 2014, the event covered above. Is MPD going back to their circa 2002 ways? If so, DC had better break out the checkbook for another round of judgements!

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Antiwar protesters greet Obama’s Iraq War speech

54 sec video clip including booing protesters

On the 10th of September, Obama gave a speech formally announcing the US was return to war in Iraq and now also in Syria, but only from the air supposedly. No war has ever been won with a campaign waged entirely from the air, but plenty of people have been killed this way in the past. Despite talk of waging the war from the air, Obama is also sending an additional 475 US troops into Iraq to supplement the 300 already sent. In other words there are already US “boots on the ground” with more to follow

Antiwar protesters were in front of the White House booing some of Obama’s more bellicose words. The last thing Obama said “God bless our troops” sounded to me like something you say to troops going to a war where you don’t expect them to make it home. One of the Code Pink signs said “been there, done that,” referrring to war in Iraq. One of the protesters said Obama wanted to bomb Assad last year, but now wants to join with Assad to bomb Islamic State. Which side is he on in Syria anyway-the chemical weapons side, or the religious extremism side?

Suddenly it’s 2003, and Mr George W Obama is beating the drums for war! Islamic State’s behavior is about as bad as it gets, but in my judgement the US conduct during the last occupation of Iraq disqualifies the US from intervening again. Private homes were routinely raided, and some of them were smashed up for no more reason than to create fightng positions for US troops. Whole familes were cuffed for hours,or dragged away to detention. Who can forget the torture at Abu Graib, the rapes at Haditha, or the Blackwater goons that shot up cars full of innocent people? The insurgency began after US troops fired live ammunition at protesters upset that a US helicopter accidently blew a flag off of a mosque. Prior to that US troops had been doing house to house searches ostensably for former Saddam officials, to considerable discontent but not at that time to much in the way of armed resistance,

This intervention in the Iraq/Syria Civil War is like calling the police because someone who was beaten by police and spent almost ten years in prison has just found a burglar in his home. I don’t think the police would be very welcome, in fact might be considered a new and even more dangerous enemy than the burglar would be.

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Alliance for Appalachia blockades Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality over MTR coal mining

On the 9th of September, the Alliance for Appalachia delivered a very bad report card (mostly incompletes and an F-) to Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality for five years of broken promises on protecting people from water being poisoned by mountaintop removal coal mining. While a traditional square dance provided support several people blocked the steps in a civil disobedience.

Video of bucket brigade, square dance, and reaction to cops throwing report card into trash

Square dancers support a blockade of Obama’s “Council on Environmental Quality”

Appalachia Water relief bucket brigade

Obama’s report card on protecting Appalachia residents, water, and mountains from MTR mining

During the first part of the civil disobedience the CD team blocked the sidewalk while a bucket brigade moved water from a fountain to a “Clean water for Appalachia” barrel. When police did nothing the civil disobedience crew escalated my moving the blockade to the steps, thus blocking the door entirely. At this point the traditional Appalachian style square dancers started up on the sidewalk below the steps to support the blockade.

The cops still declined to arrest the civil disobediance team, so shortly before 1PM the blockade was withdrawn and the report card attached to the door along with a companion sign. Police pulled the signs down and dumped them in a trash can. Several Appalachia residents were deeply offended, feeling they too were being regarded as “trash.” During the blockade, two CEQ staffers who had met with them for hours the previous day walked by without a single word and rolled their eyes at activists, another deeply offensive snub.

Five years ago, coal barons whined about a “war on coal” while Rising Tide disrupted coal industry events in big cities with black balloons. The focus was very much on surface mining of coal. Since then a massive shift to fracked gas by electrical utilities has diverted public attention, but mountaintop removal mining continues as the coal barons seek export markets.

I can only remember a single action by Obama against MTR mining since then: the high profile rejection of proposed Spruce #1 MTR mine, which would have been among the worst. Now other MTR mines are scheduled to open, and King Coal is back to his usual ways of “public” meetings 30 miles away from affected communities announced only in the classifed ads of a single newspaper. All those flowery promises, and no action from Obama at all unless you were lucky enough to live in the area that would have been the Spruce #1 mine. Still, the Alliance for Appalachia graded Obama “Incomplete” on protecting Appalachian water, mountains, health, and future, reserving a grade of “F-” for holding state goverments responsible for their part in enforcing the Clean Water Act.

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GLBTQ immigration advocates rally in front of White House

On the 9th of September, GLBTQ immigration rights activists held a rally at the White House demanding protection from deportation, which can be especially dangerous GLBTQ when people are returned to homophobic countries like Uganda or post-coup Honduras.
Video-one of the speakers explains the importance of immigration issues to the GLBTQ community

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Earth Quaker Action Team shuts down PNC branch over MTR coal mining, moonshine mixer follows

On the 8th of September, Earth Quaker Action team showed up at the Dupont Circle branch of PNC Bank, intending to enter the bank and perfrom a “4th grade math” themed skit against PNC’s investments in mountaintop removal coal mining. Upon arrival the bank branch was found closed, with customers being turned away at the door. The branch appeared to have been closed long enough before protesters arrived that all but a few of those who got in before the closure had finished their business and left. The few remaining customers were escorted out by security when the finished, but no new customers were allowed to enter.

Usually for a team intended to protest inside a building to find it locked is a defeat, but not when the target is a place that has to be open to the public to function, such as a store or a bank branch. In these cases, any protest that forces a business with objectionable practices to shut down is comparable to a lockdown across all of its doors for sheer effectiveness. The skit was held outside, and some of the bank employees watched it through the windows

One of the particpants in the protest was a former 4th grade teacher from southwestern Virginia, a place hit hard by MTR mining. She played the role of a teacher in the skit about how PNC’s investments and governmental inaction add up to mountaintop removal coal mining, poisoned water, and rising cancer rates.

There is a special history of why the Quakers would be offended that PNC Bank is funding mountaintop removal: Quakers had a prominant role in founding PNC Bank, now PNC Bank is using assets descended from this beginning to destroy the environment and poison people who are not cared about by those with more money.

The evening after the event (Sep 8) at 7PM, a “Moonshine mixer” is scheduled at the Stewart R. Mott House, 122 Maryland Ave. NE, under the theme that “it takes good water to make good moonshine!” The production of moonshine is a well known and sometimes parodied tradition in Appalachia going back to the 1700’s when farmers found that alcohol production was one of the few ways to distill the weight and volume of a crop of grain down to a load that could reach port cities at a price that would make them a profit. This was prior to the US government’s existance and was the direct cause of the “Whiskey Rebellion,” when US troops were sent under George Washington (Known to the Iroquis Confederacy as “Town Destroyer” or “Town Burner”) to suppress an insurgency that resulted from heavy taxation. These farmers had been expected to pay off the costs of the colonist’s war of independance, the first but hardly the last time those who run the US have made Appalachia a “Sacrifice zone” to serve their needs. The big coal barons wern’t that far behind George Washington’s troops, arriving a few decades later.

Video of protest that shut down PNC Bank at Dupont Circle

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DC Ferguson /Michael Brown protesters shut down U st, Adams-Morgan

Saturday night, the 6th of September was the third Saturday night in a row that Ferguson/Michael Brown protesters marched into and shut down one or more gentrified parts of the city. Two weeks earlier it was Chinatown, last week it was H st where all the new money is flowing into NE, this time around it was U Street and later Adams-Morgan and Columbia heights.

A huge thunderstorm seemed to strike DC a glancing blow, appearing to be almost instantly arriving as the march set out, yet the skies did not open until the march was finishing up at the first target, the intersection of 14th and U streets. By the time 16th and U was reached the rain was drenching but marchers kept going. One speaker remarked “”Police shoot and kill in the rain too so we’re marching in the rain too.” From 16th st marchers returned to 14th and U, then 14th and U as the rain ended. Everyone then decided to march on Adams-Morgan. The final intersections shut down for extended periods were 18th and Columbia, and 14th and Irving.

On the 4th of October, there will be a major march on Georgetown with the same demands, assembling at 7PM at the Foggy Bottom Metro station

Video of the march set to “thunderstruck” for the storm that rolled in

Taking over U Street

Two storms roll in on U st: a storm of rain and a storm of resistance to police brutality and oppression

Holding 14th and U sts

Holding 16th and U under heavy rain

Holding 18th and Columbia: the rain was over, but protesters kept going and marched on Adams-Morgan and Columbia Heights

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Sierra Club demands Dominion Energy dump ALEC at ALEC’s headquarters

On the 4th of September, the Sierra Club backed up by Virigina residents including the Mayor of Alexandria showed up in front of the offices of ALEC, the American legislative Exchange Council. They were demanding that Dominion Energy stop contributing money paid by Virginia ratepayers to this far-right thinktank. ALEC is the largest non political party donor of campaign cash in Virginia, and Dominion’s customers literally have no choice but to help ALEC corrupt the political process simply by paying their electrical bills.

ALEC is nationally notorious as the author of “stand your ground” laws in states such as Florida, where this law was widely regarded as playing a role in the death of Trayvon Martin. They are also active in voter suppression efforts intended to give the GOP a strategic advantage such as voter ID laws. Due to this, several speakers condemned Dominion for funding an enemy of civil rights. Dominion’s interest in ALEC probably stems from ALEC’s aggressive lobbying against any kind of environmental or climate change legislation.

It is appropriate that the Mayor of Alexandria participated and spoke at the rally, as Old Town Alexandria is very low lying and already has problems with flooding. Already a fancy flood control system is being installed, but sea level changes from uncontrolled global warming could easily overwhelm it and erase large parts of Alexandria from the map, adding them to navigation charts of the Potomac River instead.

Other speakers called out Dominion for their efforts to export fracked gas out of Cove Point, build two new high tension transmission liones in Virginia, and build a massive natural gas pipeline to Portsmouth, Va.

Video featuring speakers including the Mayor of Alexandria

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