We heard some rumblings on Twitter of a BP protest bike tonight, to culminate at the futuristic BP gas station on Robertson and Olympic Blvd. The ride did occur, narrowly cutting around West Hollywood.
Police were busy with the riders all evening, escorting them at different points with patrol cars. They became concerned about traffic and the possible resulting interference to emergency vehicle response times, especially when the riders were in the Hollywood area. Fire department units were notified of the disruption.
Los Angeles Police first encountered the riders as they were spotted on 6th Street heading west, then cutting up Crescent Heights to 3rd before continuing westbound towards their destination at the gas station.
Interaction with the LAPD took a turn for the worse in Hollywood, well after the initial group left the gas station, where a few riders were taken down by officers. Dramatic video was posted to YouTube showing an incident.
The riders were part of a loosely organized group called Critical Mass, which advocates for bikers rights. They often organize late night rides in various parts of the city that “flood” the streets with bike riders to increase awareness of bike riding and the need for vehicles to share the road.
LAPD dispatchers reported their numbers starting out at about 200, growing to 400 at the gas station.
Many calls came in to the LAPD about the group, with one frustrated driver complaining that some riders around Olympic and Fairfax were hitting their vehicle as they passed, perhaps with their hands as the driver attempted to pull into their path.
The riders apparently didn’t stay at the station on Robertson for very long, as reports indicated they quickly switched back, riding eastbound, possibly stopping at Pan Pacific Park near The Grove shopping center. At that point, one LAPD officer reported to the dispatch center that the group possibly numbered at 1000 or more.
From there, a splinter group headed further east, making their way up to Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave, numbering about 200 riders at that point according to the LAPD.
That’s when things turned a bit ugly, as shown in the video where a rider is filming another rider being detained by the LAPD. One officer kicks out his legs, but it it unclear at what – possibly either passing bikes that were coming too close, or maybe as a tactic to destabilize the person being detained to assist in cuffing. The filming rider screams out in protest, and is then tackled by other officers while the camera continues to roll.
The *vast majority* of the police along the way were helpful and accommodating. Even firefighters were out on the sidewalks outside of their stations giving high fives and waving hello. But for whatever reason the police in Hollywood were extremely aggressive and were harassing riders for no reason other than to get their kicks (I presume).
Our theory, based on radio transmissions, was that Hollywood LAPD officers were caught off-guard when the group reached their area. It appeared that the riders were not followed continuously by the same commanding LAPD officers, so each time they reached new areas and police, or calls came in to dispatchers, it was often treated as a new incident until someone inside LAPD made the connection for those unaware.
Compounding the surprise of the situation was that the Hollywood area is much more active on the street, and with crime and emergency response needs, than other areas bike riders had visited. We guess that LAPD in that area is much more aggressive in general about taking control of situations that occur before they get further out of control. And in this case, the concern they had without understanding what was going on was likely a factor.
This is not to say that the actions were either justified or not. We’re just trying to explain our theory as to what was behind it.
The riders continued east from Hollywood and Highland to Western, where they seemed to remain for awhile and possibly dispersing to some degree. Riders were reported going both east and west on Hollywood Blvd after being reported at Western.
Reports are still coming in about riders in another part of Los Angeles at about 11:15pm, further east at Temple and Glendale. That appears to be a different group, called People’s Ride.
The Twitter account of LosAngelesCM posted the following info leading up to the ride.
6:50PM: Crowd is roaring here at the start point
Those who are bringing their walkie talkies/two way radios, tune it to channel 13.
The environment is already being trashed by BP, so please pick up all your trash before riding off tonight.
When riding tonight remember to be respectful of each other and car drivers (some don’t know any better). When confronted with anger, smile