(Photos © J. Maus)
At today’s N17 day of actions downtown Portland, the largest assemblage of bicycle cops I’ve ever seen was called in to help with crowd control.
At one point in the march, there was a major action at the Wells Fargo on SW 5th between Taylor and Salmon. According to an officer I chatted with on the scene there were about 50-60 bike cops lined up, tire-to-tire, along the entire length of the block. Standing in the lane on 5th, they were doing their familiar bike-fence technique where they corral in the crowd by forming a wall with their Trek mountain bikes.
What made this phalanx of bike cops interesting today was that, directly adjacent (up on the curb) from the line of bike cops, was a line of people on bikes there to support the protests. It created a moment where citizens and police officers (who are also citizens of course) stood next to each other holding their bikes.
While people were being arrested inside the bank and protestors looking in the window pounded on the glass as a cop in full riot gear pulled the blinds closed, outside on SW 5th, a much more pleasant scene was taking place. Bike cops and bike riders were chatting with each other face-to-face, discussing the protest and other issues. Amazingly, even smiles broke out.
One thing I don’t understand about Police Chief Reese’s and Mayor Sam Adams’ response to the Occupy actions is the large number of fully-equipped, militaristic, stormtrooper riot cops they are sending out to these assemblies. As I watched protesters chat with bike cops today, I wondered if more human-looking (less army robot) officers might result in a more productive outcome for everyone.
Years ago, at the height of Portland’s Critical Mass movement, activists sat down and negotiated with the police to have them use fewer patrol cars and more bike cops. The police agreed, and if memory serves me correctly, the gesture was appreciated by the Critical Mass participants.
This Occupy stuff isn’t going away any time soon, perhaps it’s time for the Mayor to sit down with the citizens who elected him and discuss a possible change in protocol? It’s time for more dialogue and less intimidation.
UPDATE, 9:51 am 11/18: Look at the two photos below and think about how the protests might have different outcomes if there were more or less of the types of police shown: