COMMENTARY:

Charm City's Revolution Zone

by Scott Loughrey

The start of a baseball game at Camden Yards is an hour away. Traffic is high. Angry, very angry drivers are darting to and fro on the public's streets. Now, add to this mix enough bicyclists to block their way on the public thoroughfares....
On the night of June 30, a rag-tag collection of rebels explicitly and implicitly donning anti-Capitalist garb descend at Charles and Redwood Streets to take part in Critical Mass, a slowly-ridden bicycle ride protest that takes place on the last Friday of every month. One of the riders is wearing a provocative sign, "Capitalism: Who will be exploited next?" This idea more or less sums up the spirit of the hour. The bike riders aim to “restart the revolution.”

The start of a baseball game is an hour away. Traffic is high. Angry, very angry drivers are darting to and fro on the public's streets. The competition they are engaging in is to be the soonest to be stopped the closest distance possible to the $200,000,000 publicly-financed arena.

The police are there, of course. Three police bicyclists arrive at our gathering spot early. One makes a show of riding off and returning very shortly with two sets of plastic handcuffs. Two more police cars arrive. Soon there are 14, 15,16—even 18 police officers standing with us as we quietly wait with our bikes.

After a few more comrades arrive we start out. This seems to startle the police. Some are visibly surprised that we intend to defy the Men in Blue working for the thuggish Martin O'Malley administration. We start up Charles Street, politely taking up only one lane at first. As we ascend the hill voices in the back shout at us that this is a Critical Mass. We then take up all lanes.

The cops aren't following. To our surprise, they take off. (We'll learn later that some evidently head over to a nearby protest over the MTA Transit Rate Hike—the latest act of war against the poor. There they arrest protesters for what Americans knew for centuries to be Constitutionally-protected speech.)

The ride is long and wonderful. The angry motorists are the only problem. Two of them try to start fights with us. The only thing worth remembering about these Creatures of Venom is their spitting hatred for us, as their aggressive and angry lives—largely at public expense—are temporarily frustrated.

We bike to North Avenue. We ride south on St. Paul, a nightmare for bicyclists. We take it brazenly down to Pratt Street, defying more motorists than we can count. We take our act East on Pratt Street. Since the stadium traffic is still engaged in their Battle, this makes people unhappier still. We tour Baltimore's Disneyland (i.e., the Power Plant). (As mentioned previously this is where the Constitutionally-protected speech such as leafleting has apparently been banned by O'Malley's goons.) We head West on Lombard. There are at least five lanes of traffic here, and we do our best to block all of them. Motorists aggressively pass around and through us. There were no injuries, although it certainly is a war-zone.

A red light stops us at St. Paul and Lombard streets. The many passersby either applaud or scream at us on the sidewalk. An elderly couple has an angry conversation with one of us; they are pissed.

South on Light. Single-lane near Harborplace. East on Key Highway. Finally, the ride concludes at Little Havanas. It's time for drinks.

All in all, it is a fun ride. The Revolution is underway.


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This story was published on July 13, 2003.