APPEAL COURT OUTLAWS CRITICAL MASS
Tonight's (Friday, May 25, 2007) Critical Mass ride in London could lead to confrontation with the Metropolitan police following the Appeal Court’s decision this week, which has effectively made it illegal to organise.
The dispute, which goes back to October 2005 when the police first tried to regulate the ride, is based on the police claim that Critical Mass is a demonstration and to comply with the law, the organisers are required to give notice of the route.
However, there is no organiser, claim the cyclists, and no set route because the direction it takes is left to the whim of whosoever is on front if it at any given moment.
The brush with the Met in 2005 led to cyclist Des Kay, backed by Friends of the Earth, launching a successful High Court challenge which argued “ that the monthly rides are lawful because they fall within an exception for processions that are ‘commonly and customarily held’.”
The High Court agreed and ruled that this was so.
Last week, the Appeal Court decision returned both sides to square one.
The real mystery is why, after 13 years and 156 rides (held on the last Friday of each month), the police should develop an authoritian streak and use public order legislation to try and undermine what is a perfectly lawful and safe cycling event if all it does, as the police claim, is disrupt traffic.
Jenny Jones, a Green Party member of the London Assembly, and member of the Met Police Authority, said: "This decision is bad news for everyone, as it will end up with the police wasting time arresting innocent cyclists like me, rather than arresting real criminals.
Arresting cyclists at Critical Mass will be like arresting a group of passengers for gathering at Westminster tube station during the rush hour." Jenny is urging as many people as possible to join her on the ride tonight (Friday (25th May), which sets off at 6.30 from under Waterloo Bridge, by the National Film Theatre.
Monthly Critical Mass has become global, taking place in cities across the UK and the world. The intention is to remind authorities that cyclists are a presence on the roads and that provision of cycle facilities is inadequate.
Charly Lloyd of London Cycling Campaign said he doubted any thing would happen on tonight’s Mass – not when it’s expected.
He made the point that for the police to stop an event like this from taking place there would have to be a threat of serious public disorder and disruption.