They Used Bicycles for Evil


Outside the convention, New York remains serene. Or it was, until I began a Manhattan-wide investigation with former war photographer Jim Lowney.

In war zones, Lowney earned a reputation as a trouble magnet. His conflict-attracting skills haven't atrophied. Our investigation begins …

1.20 p.m., 5th Avenue: Two cops idly discuss their protester-deterrent tactics. Says one: "You wanna go in gladiator-style?" Lowney believes he last witnessed this method in Bosnia.

1.25 p.m.: We meet some Falun Gong folks who are re-enacting the effects of "gladiator style".

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3.30 p.m., corner 2nd Avenue and E. 9th St: White Mercury Grand Marquis surrounded by police. The Mercury's driver had earlier abandoned the vehicle in an "agitated state" after checking something in the trunk, sparking a car-bomb alert. A hot dog vendor retrieves some ID discarded by the driver. "Thank you, sir," says one officer, as another drives away in the ownerless (and non-bomb containing) Mercury.

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4.45 p.m., Union Square: A gentleman in an "agitated state" is arrested for reasons which are not immediately clear, but nevertheless prompt reflexive cries of "shame! shame!" from hippie onlookers. We decide that he likely faces hollerin' charges – hollerin' without a permit, hollerin' while in police custody, and general reckless hollerin'.

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5.00 p.m.: Lowney receives a phone call informing him of a "secret protest" scheduled for 7.00pm at Madison Square Garden. They're going to storm the barricades! Apparently the protest movement hasn't heard of earlier "gladiator style" police plans.

7.10 p.m., Madison Square Garden: We arrive late due to beer (Lowney) and purchasing several new shirts at Brooks Brothers (me). Hey, priorities.

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7.15 p.m., Broadway and 34th: Severe milling is underway. One Canadian wields a sign: "Imagine what the world would be like if everybody rode a bike!"

7.30 p.m.: Free vegan food is offered.

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7.30 p.m. + two seconds: Offer declined.

7.40 p.m.: A bunch of protesters decide to sit down in the middle of the road. They are soon sitting in the rear of an NYPD vehicle. Mission accomplished. Around the city, some 500 protesters would be arrested today.

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7.50 p.m.: The New York Police Department's elite Bicycle Squad appears. They commence to use their bikes as rams, nudging street-occupying protesters back towards the sidewalks. Imagine what the world would be like!

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8.10 p.m., 32nd St barricade: Officer Saliari believes this entrance is most under threat. "They (the protesters) will probably hit us here. It's the most difficult street for us to close down." He seems unconcerned: "We can have 800 cops here in seconds." I ask how much of the street officers might yield to protesters before responding. Lightly tapping his baton against a concrete barrier, the genial policeman replies: "Yield?"

8.30 p.m., Broadway: A group of protesters start running somewhere, pointlessly, like freed laboratory mice. This process is repeated several times.

8.40 p.m.: No "gladiator style" tactics have been observed. We withdraw to an approved drinking establishment.