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May 2006 London Critical Mass


DJ Eon was back from Switzerland and ready to rock so I collected Pedals and met him under Waterloo bridge for Critical Mass last night. While waiting to set off there were some strange rumours flying round and I don't know what it was all about. I was approached by at least three different people and the only one known to me warned that the police seemed to be taking an unusual interest in the soundsystems. The two strangers mentioned police vans parked up on the bridge and rumours that the police were planning to arrest a couple of "organisers". Of course there aren't any (all participants are equal) but if the police have a list of suspected organisers then I would imagine that my name is on it. I had not sensed so much paranoia since the Halloween Mass last year (the one after the famous letter from Superintendent Gomm) and there was a collective decision to head up to Blackfriars to avoid running the gauntlet on Waterloo bridge.

Note - the police on the bridge were probably nothing to do with CM as it turns out. I don't know why they were there but there was also a heavy duty roadblock on Lambeth bridge until long after the Mass had finished. Whole lanes were coned off with blue flashing lights and loads of motorists were being pulled over. Anyone who tried to do a runner would have been pulled by more cops waiting on motorbikes and in cars off all exits on the far side of the bridge. Were they looking for terrorists? Congestion Charge dodgers? Home Office employees?

Anyway, DJ Eon was in fine form, Pedals was sounding good, and once we were on the move there was a great atmosphere. We did a few loops of Parliament Square where Brian Haw is still holding out, albeit with a much reduced display. It looked like we might go around forever so Eon cranked up the volume a bit and I peeled off down Great George Street. The Mass followed the music but then turned up Horse Guards Road (with many riders briefly diverting into Horse Guards Parade) and on to Buckingham Palace. On our way up Park Lane I decided to try to avoid the pointless and boring routine of holding up buses on Oxford Street and head for Soho instead. Although we did hit Oxford Street for about fifty metres the plan basically worked and we got a great reception in Soho. There was a rider who started going off on one about how we were allowing the police to lead the ride but unless they were using a secret mind control ray he was talking bollocks. On Great Marlborough Street I realised that we were down to about 20 riders and that the majority of the Mass had stopped a couple of junctions back. Apparently there had been a road rage incident in which a cabbie got out of his vehicle and attacked a cyclist. Unfortunately for the cabbie the cyclist was a police officer! He then made matters worse for himself by trying to run away but was chased down and arrested - poetic justice some would say. Here is another report that mentions the incident. [Addition - here is a report which adds a bit of missing context]

When we got to Trafalgar Square I decided I'd had enough (having already taken Pedals to a demo outside the BP offices earlier in the evening) and parked up on the pedestrian area outside the National Gallery. After about half an hour the police told me that if we wanted to carry on with the ride that was cool but if we stayed in the square they would have to enforce whichever bylaw it is that forbids unlicensed amplified music. Fair enough - we played one more tune, announced details of a couple of parties that people might like to attend and bowed out gracefully. Once the music stopped the crowd dispersed fairly quickly but a couple of dozen people hung around to chat, including a few newcomers and a woman on a curvy blue bike who handed me a much appreciated beer - nice one (by the way, I have confirmed from my diary that it was after the Halloween Mass that we went to St Agnes Place) From what I could gather people seemed to enjoy the somewhat faster than usual pace and the Honey Weasel tunes that EON was cranking out. One of my remaining complaints is the predictability of the route, I would be more likely to turn up regularly if we took in some new territory, preferably less touristy areas and away from the worst of the Central London fumes. Roll on the Summer! Ian Gregory 2010