130 cyclists arrested near Olympic venues

By staff writers
29 Jul 2012

Civil liberties campaigners are calling for explanations following the arrest of over 130 people near Olympic venues in east London. The arrests took place during the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday evening (27 July).

The arrests followed the monthly Critical Mass cycle ride, a peaceful event that usually passes without incident. On this occasion, hundreds of cyclists found their way blocked by police almost immediately.

The police appear to have thought that some of the cyclists wanted to protest against corporate influence over the Olympics. They issued them with notices imposing extreme restrictions on their movements under Section 12 of the Public Order Act. Critics say that there has still been no explanation as to why this was considered necessary.

After being prevented from crossing north over Waterloo Bridge, many of the cyclists crossed the Thames on other bridges. Some then defied restrictions to travel towards the Olympic venues in east London, where many were kettled by police. The police confirmed yesterday that over 130 had been arrested.

One cyclist, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, told the BBC, "We were cycling down the Bow Road and the police directed us down a cul-de-sac. Then they kettled us in there."

She insisted that the police had not communicated with the cyclists or told them why they were being held there.

This incident marks one of the biggest mass arrests in the UK in recent years, although neither the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, nor the government have yet commented on it. Critics say they are taking advantage of the fact that media coverage is dominated by the content of the Olympics.

Several of those who were arrested were given bail conditions preventing them from travelling near Olympic venues for the duration of the Games.

Critical Mass is an event that takes place on the last Friday of every month in central London and around 300 other cities around the world. Anyone is welcome to turn up, and participants decide together where they will cycle.

Joel Benjamin, a regular cyclist on Critical Mass, said, "I saw several cases of the police being aggressive and physical, dragging people off their bikes to the ground. I guess there were people there who are against the Olympics, but Critical Mass is really a celebration of cycling, there was no need to get so heavy handed."

The incident occurred the night before the Road Race, a major Olympic cycling event.

Yesterday (28 July), around 1,000 people marched through east London in a peaceful protest against corporate and military involvement in the Olympics. They included people who had been turned out of their homes to make way for the Olympics.

Several of those involved said that the turnout was higher than they had expected. They suggested that this reflected growing concern about aspects of the Olympics, and includes many who are not opposed to the Olympics as a whole.

[Ekk/1]

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