(Photos © J. Maus)
The ‘bike swarm‘ showed up in force early this morning in downtown Portland. Despite cold temps and intermittent rain, the group of riders swelled to well over 100 and stayed strong and rode together through the final moments of what will be remembered as an historic — and peaceful — protest.
The idea of the swarm was to have people on bikes do laps around the Occupy Portland encampments in Chapman and Lownsdale Squares. With an eviction order planned to be served at 12:01 am this morning, many thought a confrontation was likely and that the presence of a mass of riders would help create a buffer zone between police and protesters.
I rode with the group off and on from about 11:45 pm to about 5:15 am this morning.
It turned out that things remained relatively peaceful the entire morning, with only a minor and short-lived skirmish (there was no confrontation involving bikes).
As cops in full riot gear encircled the parks, a stream of people on bicycles would ride by — dinging bells, lights blinking — and the very appreciative crowd would yell “thank you!” and give high fives as we passed. The ‘bike brigade’ (as I heard one reporter call it), seemed to provide everyone with a little stress relief. The passing line of bikes also helped break the monotony of what was a very long morning.
At one point, after a long and tense standoff between thousands of protestors and cops in riot gear that had closed 3rd Ave to all vehicle traffic, the line of bikes poked through and people erupted in cheers. “The bikes are back. Everything’s going to be o.k.,” I heard someone say.
At the end of the night, after occupiers respected a request from police to retreat back to the parks, all that was left of the police force was a line of cops in riot gear blocking SE Madison Ave. The crowd chanted, “Who’s blocking the street now?” and the bike brigade rolled right up to them. The cops relented and the bikes rolled through. A magical moment and one that saw bikes take center stage for a brief — yet very poignant and pivotal moment.
See it in the video below (by Big Pauper, uploaded by Token Recluse):
Making it even better was all the major news networks carrying footage of smiling people riding bikes peacefully through the streets throughout the night.
[Note: If you weren’t there, please understand that the bike swarm/brigade did not interfere with the police. This is because the police were passive and peaceful almost the entire night. When the police did move forward aggressively for a brief moment, the bike swarm was nowhere around.]
Thanks to Dan Kaufman and the ride leader tonight (I didn’t get her name but she was awesome!) and of course to everyone that showed up for this epic pedal. See more photos below…