Friday, September 5, 2008

Bicyclist Assaulted by Police Officer in Memphis Last Night

Last night I saw a bicycle rider attacked by a police officer.

Around 11:30 p.m., a group of riders headed south on Second Street to the intersection of Second and Beale. With foot traffic very light and no police prohibition at the edge of Beale, the riders rode down Beale to Third Street. Upon seeing further bike traffic as prohibited, the riders turned to head south to bypass the busy section of Beale St. When the cyclists reached Third and Beale, a police officer turned and began waving his arms. To avoid the policeman, who would have otherwise been struck by the bicycles, riders headed south on Third up the sidewalk.

After six riders passed the officer, he became angry. As the seventh rider passed the officer, the policeman grabbed the cyclist by the shoulder and threw him to the ground. Shocked, I slowed to a stop, worried my friend had broken his arm. When my friend pulled himself from the concrete, the officer stepped as close as he could to my friend, who was now bleeding, and screamed into his face: “Didn’t I tell you to stop?”

Officer Woodward, badge number 842, had the number “06” pinned to his lapel. After the officer ceased yelling, I asked the him if we were free to go. “You are!” he screamed. “But not your friend! He’s getting a citation!” And after a moment’s pause, he screamed “You’re all getting citations! For hanging around!” We calmly replied that we were concerned that our friend was injured, to which the officer said nothing. After 30 minutes, my friend who was assaulted by a police officer and the three of us that stayed around to be sure he was alright ended up with tickets.

While we waited, three eyewitnesses offered their phone numbers to us and offered to testify against the police in a court of law. Our court date is set for the 21 of October at 1:30 p.m.

The citation reads that we had been warned many times before, and had been seen on Beale riding bicycles before. I have never once been warned about riding bikes on Beale St., and had never in my life seen any of the police officers on duty that night. The police report was falsified.

This type of un-checked violence from police to citizens is not new. This summer, a transgendered woman was assaulted by local police inside a police precinct, and security forces on Beale have been in the news repeatedly for using excessive force.

In court, we will challenge the charges. We are now investigating a suit against the city for assault and excessive force. Our friend almost broke his arm, and whether it is right or wrong that bicycles are not allowed on Beale St., violation of a pedestrian or bicycle law does not warrant violent force to subdue citizens.

On Saturday, September 27, a ride will leave from Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop at First Congregational Church and proceed to Beale Street. We will dismount from our bicycles and walk the entire length of Beale St.

Please forward this message along to interested parties. For more information or to share similar stories, please contact Anthony Siracusa: 901.949.1201 or sirac@rhodes.edu

3 comments:

bcooper5 said...

What does the act of walking our bicycles down Beale achieve? Bicycles are not allowed on Beale period, walked ridden etc... We know this now. Taking bikes on Beale is just putting more people in harms way.

I think posting the court date, and having riders appear at the courtroom would have a larger impact and have some significance rather than getting a whole group of riders/walkers tickets.

Just some thoughts, I'd love to hear opinions...

jmgorman said...

You are allowed to walk your bike down beale. You can walk your bike anywhere in public.

bcooper5 said...

You can't walk your bike on highways where it has a sign "no bikes". Also on the sign that says no bikes it says "No reptiles or amphibians" I'm assuming they can't be walked down Beale street either. There seem to be some shades of gray that the cops will love to exploit.

Not sure if anyone looks at MPD Enforcer2.0 but Mr. Woodard got 201 votes for asshole of the month just last month.