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A letter to mayor Riordan

by Jonathan Callahan Thursday, Aug. 31, 2000 at 7:55 AM

A letter to the mayor asking for a police apology for my sister and the other arrested cyclists.

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.


Jonathan Callahan

Seattle, Washington

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