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Local riders create ‘Bike Corking for Social Justice’ how-to guide

Posted by on July 2nd, 2020 at 2:06 pm

For the past month bike riders have put themselves between protestors and road users. Now there’s a guide to do it right.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/bikePortland)

For over a month now, Portlanders have been taking to the streets every night to protest the killing of Black people and the racist policies and police brutality that contribute to it.

At almost every march there’s been a cadre of two-wheeled escorts patrolling intersections, directing traffic, and doing whatever is necessary to keep protestors safe. “Corking,” the act of placing your bicycle and body in an intersection in front of crossing road users so that a large group of people can go through without stopping at signals and stop signs, has been a part of protests many years.

But not everyone knows the drills. And when tensions mount in the street, it’s good to know some basic ground rules — especially if you’re white.

Screengrab of Instagram post by @portland_resistance.

In Portland’s recent protests these bike patrols have matured into well-oiled operations. They are working directly with protest leaders. There are group chats where plans are coordinated and pre-ride debriefings where volunteers get hi-viz vests, safety tips and specific assignments. While it’s been an inspiring show of solidarity and cycling acumen, there have been some challenges. One of them is that not everyone who shows up is well-versed in the necessary skills and best practices. The other is that the riders are mostly white. While it makes sense for white people to put their bodies in harm’s way to protect Black protestors, the outward appearance of a wall of white people at a Black Lives Matter protest can be awkward. And putting white people in positions of power at protests against white supremacy can be problematic.

At a march on Monday (6/29) near Portland State University to mark the two-year anniversary of the shooting of Jason Washington by campus police, a man in a car tried to get through one of the lines of corkers. In an Instagram post, the driver (who was Black) can be heard yelling at corkers (who were white) to let him drive through their blockade. After several tense minutes, they relented and let the driver through.

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With big marches coming July 4th, bike crews are already planning for how to avoid incidents like that and make sure things go as smoothly as possible. To help educate volunteers, one group has created a flyer with instructions on, “Bike Corking for Social Justice.”

In addition to excellent tips on de-escalation and how to be an effective corker, there’s also information targeted directly at white people. Here’s what it says:

“Don’t be a cop. Don’t tone-police BIPOC folks. Don’t police the tactics of BIPOC organizations or individuals. Also remember this: Any escalation of violence that you participate in will have a greater negative impact on Brown or Black bodies than on your own body.”

One of the lead creators of the flyer is Amelia Bjesse-Puffin (on Instagram at @smash_the_skatriarchy). She felt it was necessary because she’d noticed “white colonizer behavior” among the group. She says the guide is a work in progress and that it was a group effort with other corkers she’s met at recent protests. “I’ve been corking for just a few weeks so I’m just adding what I can to the movement,” she shared with us via email.

If you want to help keep marchers safe, take a look at these flyers, find an upcoming event via the Black Lives Matter calendar and look for the riders in hi-viz vests.

For more cycling/protesting inspiration, don’t miss this great story published today by The New York Times, Thousands Join N.Y.C. Bike Protests: ‘It’s Like Riding in the Cavalry’

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Amelia
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Amelia

Hi all! Amelia here. I want to make sure to give credit where credit’s due. This flyer was made in collaboration with fellow corkers, Genevieve and Per. Very much a group effort.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

The effective corking tips look sensible.

I’ve always found cognitive dissonance in the expectation that people should obey self appointed authorities who defy actual authorities.

But work with people, and I can see why many might agree to polite requests and practical suggestions.

On the plus side, these actions can’t help but encourage cycling. Every time there’s a protest, it screws up traffic and public transport — so the only way of getting around that actually works is cycling.

Not so great for those who aren’t as able bodied, but it works fine for those of us who are 🙂

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

Corking sounds like a sex act. An unsatisfying one.

Roberta Robles
Guest
Roberta Robles

Thanks corks! One last piece of advice: repeat back to them their license plate numbers, this calms some drivers down. And yes I am guilty of white colonizer behaviour as a cork. But my Indigenius voice is also consistently dismissed in most advocacy circles (except bikeportland, pedalpalooza and bike swarm they try). Riding the edge here; so I’m really glad they rounded up these guidelines. I support all of it plus get the license plate numbers if necessary, tho no one is calling the cops 🙂 viva la revolutionaries!

RudiV
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RudiV

Your “revolution” is a revolt of the feckless, college educated laptop jockey class against working people of all races. Even black people are ditching BLM. They realize that its an astroturfed marxist organization for whom black concerns are merely a means to an end.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

RudiV, I think you are a bit confused on the terminology of the marxist class struggle. A marxist revolution is one in which the working class revolts against the bourgeois and the capitalists. Since BLM is targeting the property and privilege of the property owning class, and especially the public security force that protects it (the police) then yes it is in some ways marxist. But it is not possible at the same time for the them to attack the working class as this would be the opposite of marxism. If the “laptop jockeys” as you call them are attacking the working class for the benefit of their masters in the capitalist class ( I think that is what you mean by astroturf) then that is a color revolution, or colonialism or something like that but not Marxism. I would recommend you get your revolution lingo from reading something substantial like the three volumes of “Das Capital” instead of watching Fox News.

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

Oh ok sure, I’m confused. I literally laughed out loud at that.

It’s not the people who claim that “speech is violence”, and then shortly thereafter that “silence is violence” who are confused? Or the ones claiming to be “peaceful protesters”, while chanting the explicit threat, “no justice no peace!”?

I don’t know about Fox News. I do know that BLM founder Patrisse Cullors is on record stating that they are “trained marxists”. It’s on youtube, self-recorded in her own words.

You claim that its “not possible” for marxists to attack the working class. Here’s how it’s possible- they’re liars and hypocrites.

Amelia
Guest
Amelia

Those are really good points about getting license numbers and not calling the cops! We’ll add them in. And it’s cool to hear what organizations have been welcoming and inclusive 🙂 Sucks that inclusivity and equity aren’t automatically a part of all social justice activities yet.

Bill Stites
Subscriber

Great to see this thoughtful document to aid the protests. I’ve done a fair share of corking back in the day – thinking about the Critical Mass rides.
Today, however, vehicular violence is a real thing – drivers are hitting the gas and running over people, even the fucking cops!!

I’m wondering if there is more that can be added to the procedures to mitigate this risk. Maybe cork with 2 or 3 buddies? and 2 or 3 videos rolling? One cannot totally eliminate the risk, but perhaps it can be reduced further.

It’s unbelievable that we even have to consider this kind of action, but today people are on edge and can’t be trusted to “do the right thing” in their cars. Honestly, I’d be afraid to cork today.

dwk
Guest
dwk

The protests are now just redundant and stupid. Turning off a public that you have on your side is really good tactics. Spray painting the Elk was so stupid.
The destruction of property now is just a waste of all our resources.
VOTE!!!
I wonder how many of the people who are still out every night actually vote. if 20% do I would be shocked.
We have Trump because about 80% of these under 30 crowd just won’t vote.
Too much effort compared to spray painting the Elk statue.

apatheticaardwolf
Guest
apatheticaardwolf

I wish I had an answer. People feel disenfranchised and that their voice/vote doesn’t matter. It’s all about what monied corporations want, and what self-interested politicians can get away with in cahoots with corrupt lobbyists. So they don’t participate at all. My pleas for them to realize that abdication of what power they have (through voting) will only make it even worse, is met with a shrug or a call for violent revolution. Either way, voting is not seen as the answer.

dwk
Guest
dwk

Thanks for the reply but that is very lame…. We have Donald Trump because of this attitude.
Thanks a lot. If 80,000 people had voted in a couple states this nightmare would not be happening…
He alone did not cause the racial strife that we have had forever, him and his fans just throw gas on it and blame people like you.
He will get away with it again if you all do not vote him and his agenda out.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

This is putting it charitably. Whites trying to make it all about themselves undermine the very legit BLM movement.

I live literally within stone’s throw of the recent NoPo riot. It takes serious mental gymnastics to pretend that vandalizing a minority owned business and scaring kids and animals who live there does anything to combat racism.

No one wanted all those police or tear gas thick like fog. But we wanted even less marauding rioters destroying and burning things with no regard for the safety of those who live there.

If you want a police state and a broken city, just keep it up.

People who can’t vote the right people in sure as heck can’t be trusted to get a better result through violence. So if you want to start battles and destroy things, do it where you live rather than expecting others to absorb the consequences of your actions.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

So agree. George H W Bush called Portland “little Lebanon” because people here are quick to riot. Our black bandana anarchists of ten years ago still exploit peaceful protests as cover for their destructive wildlings. And now peaceful protests are a footnote to their celebration of chaos

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

That “little Lebanon” comment is perhaps one of the worst things that’s every happened to us as a city. We took it as a badge of honor, and now there’s a tiresome “brand Portland” aspect to the rioting.

As a city on the west coast, we are the homeliest of five sisters (unless you count Sactown). We don’t have beautiful beaches and world class universities. We don’t have movie stars, tech giants, aerospace, a navy base, hell we don’t even have a competitive port anymore. We’re a branch office town full of C students, and the weather sucks.

How do we get people to notice us?

Easy, we’re “little Lebanon”! We’re the most strident rebels!

It was obvious to me the minute the riots erupted in Minneapolis that there was no way Portland was going to let some other city out riot us. Its how we keep our place on the list of “urban” destinations for “knowledge workers” and “creative types” who grew up in boring, safe suburbs. That’s who the rioters are too btw. They’re living out the fantasy we’ve sold them.

This was fun for a while but its time to retire it in favor of a more positive vision. It’s become maladaptive in the last few years.

dan
Guest
dan

Who says we wanted people to notice us? We were perfectly happy knitting sweaters, drinking micros, and plotting with our Marxist brethren to overthrow the capitalist order, and then the national media noticed how goshdarned cute we were and screwed everything up.

dan
Guest
dan

It was “little Beirut,” and the day Portland protesters puked in red, white and blue as the Bush motorcade drove by was a proud day in our city’s history.

Bike Guy
Guest
Bike Guy

After Jonathan posted this article on Friday, we had a chance over the holiday weekend to try out the explicitly race-based double standard that Amelia advocates when a black driver rammed his car into protestors on the freeway in Seattle:

https://apnews.com/7f296e8e535f0a6cd15b7714bd2756b1

So maybe the corkers were right not to let anyone through, regardless of race? Just saying.