MPLS police administer pepper spray, beat down cyclists in Loring Park

Pepper spray, wailing police sirens, and the rumbling of overhead helicopters permeated the air earlier tonight in Loring Park as dozens of police officers descended on a group of bicyclists.

At around 7 p.m., police cars were trailing the large assembly of cyclists along La Salle Avenue. The group was taking part in Critical Mass--a monthly ride undertook by bike-enthusiasts the world over to "assert cyclists' right to the road"--when things turned ugly.

According to witnesses, an unmarked maroon police car sped ahead of the others and smashed purposefully into a cyclist, spilling him onto the road who, in turn, took down another cyclist.

"After that, the other police cars swarmed around the sides and ordered everyone to get off their bikes or they'd be maced," said Glenda Sheppard, who lives directly adjacent to the scene on the corner of LaSalle and Grand. "Then they attacked the bikers."

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," said one cyclist who requested she be referred to as Joy, her eyes still red from the pepper spray. "They threw people to the ground. A girl next to me was being tasered. One guy was being beaten."

Just what elicited the use of force remains unclear at this point. Police at the scene declined comment and Lt. Marie Przynski, Friday night's watch commander for the MPD, has not returned numerous phone calls seeking comment. Whatever the case, both witnesses and cyclists were visibly shaken in the aftermath. And a bit angry.

"They were beating people indiscriminately," said nearby resident Paula Hare, shaking her head. "I've seen stuff like this before. It was a 100 percent set-up."

When Joy--who was toward the front of the group--asked an officer what was going on, she says she was greeted with a terse warning. "You better get on your bike, sweetheart." According to Joy when a male friend of hers took issue with the comment the officer threw him down to the pavement and mased him. He was presumably arrested.

All seven of the witnesses who talked to City Pages said there was no threat of violence or taunts on behalf of the cyclists prior to police action.

"It was like a war down here," said local resident Frank Grissom. "Except I didn't see any rioting."

More on this as the story unfolds.

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