Sept. 1: 19 bicyclists arrested after rally turns into melee

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2007 - 8:12 AM

Officers watching the event in downtown Minneapolis say they were attacked, escalating the confrontation.

Police arrested 19 bicyclists, including three juveniles, after a protest ride took an ugly turn in downtown Minneapolis Friday night.

About 200 bicyclists were riding on La Salle Avenue, with two officers monitoring the protest that called for reduced reliance on automobile transportation. The ride was also linked with weekend protests of next year's Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities.

When officers tried to arrest a rider they felt had been trying to provoke them, a scuffle broke out, said Minneapolis Police Lt. Marie Przynski.

"When the officer went to arrest him, his buddy came up, and they started to struggle with the officer," Przynski said.

A group surrounded the officers, and begin to chant "Let them go!"Then several people tried to prevent the officers from arresting these individuals," she said, and a skirmish ensued.

Soon, the two officers were surrounded by about 30 people, and they issued the call "officer needs help."

That brought 48 officers from six different law enforcement agencies racing to the scene, where the situation escalated and the officers used chemical Mace in an attempt to control the crowd, Przynski said.

Police then called in medics to examine people who were sprayed. Some officers had minor injuries, such as scrapes, but nobody was seriously injured, said Przynski, the night watch commander.

It was unclear, Przynski said, if the first people arrested were affiliated with the convention protest group. The lieutenant also said that a State Patrol helicopter had videotaped part of the event, and that documentation would be included in what police are now reviewing.

Police said they have had little trouble with recent rallies staged by Critical Mass, a loosely organized group that opposes society's heavy use of motor vehicles.

"We've never had a problem with Critical Mass, the rally," she said. "We agree with them that we need to lessen our dependence on the automobile. Apparently, they had some infiltrators or outsiders who joined the rally tonight. And these outsiders were trying to provoke the officers."

The adults were arrested on suspicion of rioting, a gross misdemeanor.

Joy Powell • 612-673-7750

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