10/27/2007

Wash. police intervene during bike ride

Jeremy Pawloski
The Olympian

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bicyclist participating in a "Critical Mass" ride was arrested on suspicion of violating the city's Pedestrian Interference Ordinance downtown about 6:15 p.m. Friday after he allegedly blocked the path of a sport utility vehicle near Legion Way and Seventh Avenue on Capitol Way, police said.

The arrest prompted a large number of the bicyclists to gather Friday night in front of the Olympia Police Department's headquarters at City Hall on Plum Street in solidarity with the rider who was arrested.

Police identified the rider as Zachary Andre, 28. He was released late Friday from the Olympia Police Department's jail, police said.

Olympia Police Sgt. Jim Partin said two Olympia officers confronted Andre as he blocked the SUV's path. The driver was getting out of his vehicle when police approached Andre, and they arrested him on suspicion of violating the city's Pedestrian Interference Ordinance, Partin said.

Partin said the officers were trying to prevent a confrontation between the driver and Andre.

One of the riders gathered at the police station said Andre was trying to keep the group of bicyclists safe.

"There was an aggressive driver," said Maya Face, 21.

Others in the group contradicted the police version of events but declined to discuss in detail what happened.

Partin said it was within officers' discretion to arrest Andre. Officer Matt Renschler added, "One hundred angry bicyclists around the cops is a good reason to expedite."

He said police protect the rights of bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians.

Of Friday night's arrest, Partin said, "They're interfering with other people's rights in the roadway, and that's why we're doing what we're doing."

Previous incident

This is not the first time Critical Mass riders have had a confrontation with police. Participants typically take to the streets en masse in celebration of bike culture. The organization, which has rides in urban areas nationwide, has no formalized leadership.

On Oct. 27, 2006, two bicyclists participating in a monthly Critical Mass ride in Olympia were arrested after someone allegedly slashed the tires of a patrol car. One of those riders, Justin Averre, 20, has a pending felony court case in Thurston County Superior Court on a count of first-degree malicious mischief. The other, Joseph C. Lima, then 19, was arrested on suspicion of obstructing justice and possessing marijuana.

First-degree malicious mischief is a Class B felony, and the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

According to court papers, during the incident on Fourth Avenue, just west of Adams Street, an Olympia police officer saw Averre "lean over and push the blade of a knife against the right front tire" of a patrol car. The knife later was recovered, court papers state.

Averre's jury trial is tentatively set for Nov. 26 in Superior Court.

In a news release from the Olympia Police Department after last year's arrests, Olympia Police Lt. Jim Costa wrote that Critical Mass riders disrupted traffic downtown.

"Vehicle traffic came to a standstill and all lanes of travel were temporarily blocked," he wrote. "Police began receiving 9-1-1 calls from motorists who were angered by the delays."

Copyright 2007 The Olympian

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