By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
The extra police presence may have been due to the participation of the RNC Welcoming Committee—a group organizing a mass protest at the 2008 Republican Convention in St. Paul—which held a weekend event marking the one-year lead-up to the convention. While Critical Mass riders stress that they are in no way affiliated with the group, the ride did have sizeable representation from the Welcoming Committee.
Officials dismiss the Committee in their explanation, attributing the heightened surveillance to increased complaints they had received in the wake of previous Critical Mass rides. Asked about the helicopter, MPD spokeswoman Tammy Diedrich claims that it was intended to help the cyclists.
"The police department has never been able to help facilitate their ride because they're always in the back of the riders," Diedrich says, "so they decided to provide an aerial view to make it a better ride."
But that explanation doesn't wash with Michelle Gross, a registered nurse who treated many of the cyclists' injuries and acts as vice president for Communities United Against Police Brutality.
"They had this planned and were ready," Gross says of the police. "They've been doing this for months with no problems and all of sudden they need a helicopter? This was political." Tony Webster