Who orders the violence against cyclists in San Francisco, why, and what are the specific mechanisms by which it is carried out?

ANSWER: Our analysis indicates that in retaliation for political attacks on items on his development agenda in which cyclist groups figured prominently, Mayor Willie Brown, through the agency of Deputy Chief Dick Holder, ordered and continues to order harassment, arbitrary arrests and violent police attacks on cyclists on Critical Mass night.

As intended, the media-generated hysteria over the montly Critical Mass ride has succeeded in diverting attention away from Brown's undermining of San Francisco's tranportation system in favor of the "development" projects of his clients

The evidence

SFPD Lieutenant Keith C. Sanford (#1414) pins a 120 pound woman in a dangerous hold normally reserved for violent criminals after knocking her to the ground.
He claims that she assaulted him with her elbow and DA Terence Hallinan is prosecuting the case against her

Also see special report:
The SFPD under Willie Brown

The evidence:
Judge for yourself

Claim 1: The monthly Critical Mass ride was not considered a public problem until Willie Brown - with the eager cooperation of the local media - made it so

Exhibit 1: Press coverage of Critical Mass rides in 1997

January ride: no coverage
February ride: no coverage
March ride: no coverage
April ride: no coverage
May ride: no coverage

Note: The monthly Critical Mass ride was five years old in Septepmber 1997

Exhibit 2: "Official" attitude towards the rights of cyclists before the June ride

Bridge the Gaps for Cyclists
San Francisco Chronicle editorial - May 25, 1997

"Bike riding is not going away. It is a popular, healthy way to get around, and transit and highway agencies ought to welcome the new day. Building wider bridges, slowing traffic on bike routes, and publicizing the world of pedaling are a worthy task of good government."

Claim 2: Before the Critical Mass "problem" became a public issue, Brown's neglect of transportation issues was coming under increasing fire which was threatening his clients' "development" programs

Exhibit 3: Brown projects opposed and/or thwarted by cyclist groups before the June and July rides

UPDATE: A new and related alternate theory as to why the local media was so quick to lead the attack on the riders and then cover the facts.

  • "Cyclist groups played a role in shooting down a well-financed bid to expand the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park last year."
    Source: San Francisco Chronicle

  • A poster to sfbike@cycling.org tries to make sense of the mayor's sudden, out-of-the-blue attack on Critical Mass (note: posted more than three weeks before the July 25 ride.)

  • San Francisco Bicycle Coalition boycotts meeting called by mayor.

  • Stealing the bridge funds, destroying the city's transportation system - An example of the public debate on important transportation issues which was drowned out by nearly two months of Brown-generated Critical Mass hysteria (July 2- August 29) Cyclists have been among the most vocal in opposition to Brown's "development" schemes.

  • And the attempt to be heard goes on goes on - Jason Meggs' October letter to the Examiner

    Claim 3: Brown created conflict with Critical Mass to divert public attention from his bankrupt tranportation policies

    Exhibit 4: Brown's anti-cyclist campaign after the peaceful June 27 ride across the Golden Gate bridge did not hit the press until days after the ride

  • Brown Wants To Put Brakes On Mass Bike Ride
    Note date: July 2, 1997. Five full days after the June ride.

    "The flock of bicyclists who tie up San Francisco streets one Friday night each month and alienate motorists have a new opponent: Mayor Willie Brown."

  • Cycling Event at Critical Point Commuters vent, mayor gets tough, riders dismayed - July 3, 1997 - four days after the June ride

    "Brown said on Monday that he would crack down on the mass ride-along -- which can draw as many as 3,000 cyclists -- because it clogs the city's streets, stalling traffic and impeding pedestrians. He vowed to pull the police escorts now authorized for the event, and ticket cyclists who run red lights and commit other traffic infractions."

    Claim 4: The violent attacks on cyclists and the slander campaign against Critical Mass were planned well in advance of the July "riot"

    Exhibit 5: The SFPD prepared for violence days in advance of the July ride

  • Defiant Bicyclists To Snub S.F. Mayor They boycott talks, plan to ride Friday - July 21, 1997 - four days before the July ride
    Note: The "defiant cyclists" referred to in this headline is the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a mainstream organization with several thousand registered members

    "Meanwhile, the police department has been quietly drawing up plans for what to do if Critical Mass gets critical Friday.

    It's all very sketchy right now,'' one source told us. ``But from the looks of things everyone is ready to pull out the stops. It's going to be hats and bats all the way, with arrests very much a possibility.''

  • Arrests and riot gear ordered a week in advance for a peaceful, community event that had not been the source of any civil disturbances all year? On what basis? What had changed?

    Claim 5: Brown pretended shock at the outcome of the July ride and then used the highly biased and inaccurate media accounts to further attack Critical Mass. Discussion of his tranportation policies disappears from the news media

    Exhibit 6: Brown was careful to distance himself from the impending violent crackdown

    Mayor Brown Backs Down On Bike Event U-turn on Critical Mass catches police off-guard - San Francisco Chronicle - July 22, 1997

    "San Francisco Deputy Police Chief Richard Holder and Southern Station Police Captain Dennis Martel initially addressed the meeting, signaling that the cops were going to get tough at Friday's event.

    By the time Brown weighed in, he seemed to favor the velvet glove rather than the mailed fist.

    'The discussions will remain open,' he said. 'There may be routing opportunities' that would allow limited red-light running.

    Brown would not address specifics, however.

    'I do not think it appropriate to project what will occur at (today's) meeting,' he said.

    SFPD's Holder and Martel appeared startled by Brown's turnaround, but recovered quickly."

    Exhibit 7: Brown disappeared immediately after the July ride began and refused to respond to press questions during the "riot" citing attendance at a party as the reason for his silence

    Claim 6: Officers under the command of long time Brown ally and friend Deputy Chief Holder deliberately attempted to provoke a riot on Market Street for the benefit of the news media and to generate arrests

    Exhibit 8: The pictures

    Claim 7: They did the same thing again at the Broadway tunnel on the September 26th ride after the completely orderly August ride

    Exhibit 9: The pictures

    Bottom Line:

    When Captain Dennis Martel was in charge of escorting Critical Mass, it took 35 police officers and the rides were peaceful. Since responsibility for the ride was turned over to Dick Holder by Mayor Brown in July, it takes 200 police officers to not escort it.

    An alternate theory on why the local media was so quick to lead the attack on the riders and then cover the facts.

    The SFPD under Willie Brown

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