MPD Actions at "Tour de Fletcher"
My office has received multiple contacts about the Minneapolis Police Department's response to the bike ride and fundraiser organized by the supporters of the RNC8 this past Saturday. Forty to fifty cyclists, who rode peacefully and obeyed traffic rules, were trailed by at least four bike cops, one marked and one unmarked squad car, and two booking vans. One person was arrested for disorderly conduct.
After the morning ride, the group met, as planned, at Walker United Methodist Church for lunch. They declined to continue with their First Amendment-protected, peaceful and legal assembly, because they were intimadated. It sounds like MPD officers waited around the church for about two hours, waiting for the ride to resume.
Yesterday I asked for more information from Minneapolis Police administration. I was concerned, given the evidence I had seen so far, that the MPD's actions last Saturday were in violation of the Council's "Police Policies for Public Assemblies" resolution from July of last year (see here and go to page 572). The twenty-fifth clause of that resolution states that "MPD presence at public assemblies will be based on legitimate public safety concerns and not be based upon intent to chill First Amendment rights." It is extremely difficult for me to believe that there was a "legitimate public safety concern" that justified this level of police presence. The materials the RNC8 distributed and the web page notice of the event make clear that the ride was to be legal and family friendly, making pretty clear that the organizers did not intend even nonviolent civil disobedience.
What I've heard from folks in the MPD Administration is that they mistakenly assumed that this bike ride was fundamentally the same as a Critical Mass, and implemented the same level of response that they use for CM rides. It was not a fundamentally similar event - the ride was planned as a fully legal event with a planned route. The number of participants was significantly smaller than the average CM. A Deputy Chief has admitted that the MPD response should have been scaled back when it became clear that this was a different kind of event.
I have asked that if MPD has any questions when trying to plan for future events of this sort, they call my office. I can help find out the intentions of the organizers and let MPD know where this level of public expenditure and police presence is not just unwarranted, but likely to be viewed as intimidating.