August 29, 2000
Dear Mayor Riordan,
I am writing to you regarding the arrest of 71 bicyclists during the
Democratic National Convention. My sister was one of those
arrested and I was saddened and angered by what I heard from her
and subsequently read elsewhere. The opinion piece by Susanne
Blossom in the LA Times corroborates my sister's description of
As one who lives in Seattle and took part in the peaceful labor
march during the WTO protests I'd like to pass on to you some of
the values my siblings and I were raised with and which I hope you
can inculcate in the LAPD.
The ends DO NOT justify the means.
The converse of this has been used throughout human history to
sanctify every kind of unacceptable behavior. I'm sure the
argument will be made that your police department had reason to
believe this group of cyclists intended to cause a disruption
downtown, though my sister assures me they had no such
intention. I'd like to believe that the police goal was to ensure
public safety. Even so, that would be no excuse for becoming a
police state where first amendment rights are temporarily
Lead by example.
Mayor, you demonstrated this yourself by very publicly biking to
work the morning after the cyclists were arrested. I salute you. I
bicycle commute every day. My sister bicycle commutes every
day. More people need to bicycle commute every day. You can
lead as a mayor by making LA a better place for bicycles. And
you can lead by calling for a police apology for the arrested
Speak up for what you believe in.
Surely all politicians must subscribe to this. It is the fundamental
force in our democracy and guaranteed by the first amendment.
You and the other cyclists both spoke out for biking as a viable
method of transportation. You were both escorted by police. But
you were photographed on the street while they were photographed
in jail. People should be encouraged to speak up for alternatives to
the automobile, not arrested. And people should be celebrated, not
vilified, for speaking out against injustice and corruption.
Respect the rights and property of others.
In Seattle I was one of those who, disgusted by the vandalism at
the WTO protests, showed up the next day to scrub away the blots
left by others. I was raised to respect the rights and property of
others. So was my sister. It is evident now that the arrested
cyclists did not engage in vandalism, did not commit any traffic
infractions, and did not tie up any precious LA traffic. My sister
obeyed at all times either traffic regulations or instructions from
officers. She is a responsible, law abiding adult.
Your police department has apparently not learned this basic civics
lesson. I trust that you will direct them to return the bicycles held
as evidence and to expunge the records of those wrongly arrested.
Let your police department know that it is NOT OK to treat citizens
like criminals for exercising their rights to free speech and
Mayor Riordan, the LAPD is YOUR police department. You have
more control over the actions and attitudes of LA's finest than any
other elected official. I imagine that you share the values
I've described here so this is what I ask of you on behalf of my
sister and the other arrested cyclists:
Show leadership by making LA safe for bikes. Speak up for the
wrongly jailed cyclists. And tell your police to respect the rights
and property of others.