Beat the Bombers! was billed as a party for peace against DSEi which starts tomorrow at ExCeL. I had agreed to take charge of Pedals and use it to provide music and an open mic. There was a suspected fault with the sub woofer amp so I replaced it on Friday with an even chunkier 1,900 Watt unit! Once the system was set up and sound checked I rode it solo to RampART where I had agreed to meet my co-pilot/DJ on Saturday morning.
More people involved with the action arrived at RampART in the morning, followed shortly by a contingent of cops. It felt like we were under siege but I figured that as soon as the DJ arrived I would just get on with it and hope for the best. We were photographed while hooking the trailer up to the tandem but were not otherwise hindered and were soon pedalling out along the A13 towards Docklands.
Things went well until just after the roundabout at Canning Town DLR when a white van full of cops pulled us over. There were just the two of us so we were outnumbered about 3 to 1 and were questioned separately. One of the cops claimed that we were breaking some rule or other by riding on the dual carriageway. I assumed that I must have missed a sign but in fact it turned out that he didn't know the highway code and had thought that bikes were banned from all dual carriageways! He was soon corrected by one of his fellow officers:-)
I said I was going to a party and they clearly knew all about it (one even looked at his watch and commented that we were late!). I was asked if I was "part of any group" and I told them I wasn't. They pursued the point and asked if I was with Critical Mass - but since that is a phenomenon rather than an organisation the question made no sense. They are clearly interested in Critical Mass though, and under "Grounds for Search or Reason for Stop" on Form 5090 they wrote:
Subject on tandem on A13 headed toward ExCeL. Large trailer on bike with 'Critical Mass' logo on side. Sound system/equipment on rear trailer with loudspeaker & control mechanism on bike frame. Spoken to to establish dets & destination.
I objected to this description on the grounds that there were a number of stickers and bits of paper on the trailer, only one of which mentioned Critical Mass, and even that was not a logo. They dismissed my objection and I declined to sign the form. There were various things I forgot to ask at the time and there is nothing on the form to say which legislation they used to justify stopping us.
Anyway we carried on our way and set up the system in Beckton Park adjacent to the Royal Albert DLR station. A few cops showed up to investigate, followed by about 100 punters ready to party. Some people seemed happy to chill in the park but the samba band were keen to get out on the streets so a plan developed to move out and make our way to the convergence centre on Bullivant Street. On our way we happened to pass ExCeL and paused for a while to make our feelings known and soon after that we had to shelter from a thunder shower under the steps of the Royal Victoria DLR station, which was a good opportunity for a tea break.
After tea and cakes I decided to ride Pedals straight to the convergence centre, although we did stop to play on the Canning Town roundabout for a while! The convergence centre was opened on Friday in the St Matthias Centre and there were plenty of people there. I didn't stay long, and returned home as soon as I had got Pedals to a safe storage space. There is a call to blockade ExCeL on Wednesday and cyclists are encouraged to assemble at 08:30 outside Bank tube station. I am not sure if I will be able to make it but I hope it goes well.
www.zenatode.org.uk Ian Gregory 2010