By Monty Phan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Over 40 Tucson Police officers, most clad in helmets and special uniforms, arrested protesters yesterday during a Critical Mass bicycle ride that blocked rush-hour traffic on Speedway Boulevard.
Witnesses said approximately 22 people were arrested, but TPD was unable to confirm that number at Wildcat press time.
The protestors were arrested for blocking and impeding traffic, a criminal misdemeanor.
The bike ride, organized to protest pollution caused by motor vehicles and promote alternate modes of transportation, blocked eastbound traffic around 4:30 p.m. when approximately 75 to 100 bicycles filled the bicycle lane and portions of the rightmost lane of Speedway, about a quarter mile west of Campbell Avenue.
Sgt. Don Tatman, public information officer for TPD, said police had prior knowledge of the event, and arrived in the area at 4:15 p.m., anticipating arrival of the cyclists at 4:30 p.m.
Tatman said although the participants were denied a parade permit, they decided to proceed with the ride.
"One of the things we took into consideration was that we don't want anyone to get hurt because of the traffic," Tatman said. "This is rush-hour traffic; it couldn't be tolerated."
Gary Welch, owner of Dirtbag's, witnessed the arrests Ä which occurred directly in front of the bar Ä from the front window of the bar, 1800 E. Speedway Blvd. He said 50 to 60 people broke from the group and rode south down an alley between a 7-11 convenience store and Dirtbag's. He said the rest were "sitting or laying in the parking lot waiting.
"Most people were peaceful," Welch said. "There were a couple people they had to get a little abusive with. They probably could have done (the arrests) with 10 cops. Someone driving by would think it had something to do with Dirtbag's."
Tim Johnson, a resident of the neighborhood, said about 10 to 15 bikes were "zig-zagging back and forth, taking up the whole (rightmost) lane." He said an officer on a bicycle was stationed in the alley, but "everybody flew by him."
Bruce Prosser, a newspaper hawker who watched the incident from the median on Speedway, said police cars approached the riders from both directions. He said an officer who was using a megaphone said, "Get off your bikes and sit down," to which the bikers complied.
"(The bikers) were coming up the street, and the next thing I know the sirens started going," Prosser said. "(The police) had cars all the way across the median. They shut the whole road off in like two seconds. These people weren't going nowhere."
This was the first Critical Mass bike ride which resulted in arrests. A parade permit was issued for the last ride, along Broadway Boulevard, which was escorted by police, Tatman said. A Critical Mass flyer states that protest rides are scheduled for the first Thursday of every month.
"Usually we get a police escort," said William Menzel, a protester who was later arrested. "We mid
didn't get a parade permit. The cops were ready for this one."
John, a UA student who refused to give his last name, was also arrested.
"By the time I got here to ride, the cops were already on it," John said. "It was already going down."
No one was hurt during the incident. Protesters were taken to TPD headquarters. They were cited and released last night, and are scheduled to appear in court April 20.
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