Police say cyclists were warned

By Michelle Roberts

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A Tucson police officer testified yesterday that the department had prior knowledge of the April 6 Critical Mass bicycle protest, and that the protesters were warned they would be arrested if they rode without a parade permit.

Fifteen protesters are being prosecuted on charges of obstructing a highway or public thoroughfare. The trial began yesterday in Tucson City Court, 103 E. Alameda.

The bicycle ride by Critical Mass was organized to protest pollution caused by motor vehicles and to promote alternate modes of transportation. The participants' parade permit application to ride had been denied before the protest. The protestors decided to ride anyway.

Officer Arthur Waterman, a Tucson Police Department bike patrol officer, testified the department had prior knowledge of the planned protest. He testified he and other officers handed out flyers to protestors who were congregating on the Mall before the ride.

The flyers warned people that anyone blocking a roadway would be arrested. Waterman said he remained in the area, waiting to see what the protesters would do.

He testified that he witnessed 75 to 80 cyclists "riding in a mob" very slowly north on Cherry Avenue. He saw them turn eastbound onto Speedway Boulevard.

"They stopped the flow of traffic almost completely," Waterman said.

Waterman was one of at least 10 officers called by city prosecutor Julie Hughes, who also asked them to identify defendants using Polaroid snapshots taken on the day of the incident.

Officer Ron Slyter, a Tucson motorcycle officer, testified that by the time the majority of the bicyclists had turned onto Speedway Boulevard, police had already stopped eastbound traffic on Speedway to prevent bicyclists from being struck by cars.

Defense attorney Paul Gattone cross-examined officers, trying to show that police had already blocked traffic before the majority of protestors arrived at the intersection. He repeatedly pointed out that defendants could not be tried as a group and must be tried as individuals.

The prosecution rested at 2 p.m., at which point Gattone began calling his clients to the stand.

Pollard declared a mistrial in two of the defendants' cases when he said they had cut him off in traffic earlier that morning. Their particular cases will be handed over to another judge.

The court is in recess until Thursday morning. Gattone said the defense will continue calling their witnesses, and that he expects the trial to be over in a couple of days.

Before the trial began, city magistrate Michael Pollard confirmed that earlier charges of resisting arrest and contributing to the delinquency of a minor had been dropped in late July.

If convicted, the protesters could receive a maximum fine of $500 in addition to 12 months probation and 30 days in jail.

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