Cyclists and police face off during Critical Mass gathering

WATCH ABOVE: Cyclists and police faced off again this week during what is normally a peacful monthly gathering in downtown Montreal. Rachel Lau reports.

MONTREAL – As seen in this amateur video shot by the cyclists themselves, it was a loud, yet cheerful collective bike ride.

Living up to one of their maxims, “don’t forget, it’s a party!”

And then, things got messy.

Twenty-one-year-old Caitlin Nelson was taking part in the Critical Mass bike ride when she was allegedly grabbed from behind – and arrested.

“There was no ‘this is illegal,’ there was no ‘stop’ it was just run out and grab,” she said.

“They were grabbing people and people were still bicycling so there was falling off of bikes, bikes flying, bikes tumbling, people getting hurt, cops falling, it was a mess.”

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Critical Mass is an international event that has been going on for decades – usually without too much drama.

The point is to celebrate urban cycling, something that is increasingly becoming a popular mode of transportation in Montreal.

“The purpose was to put the place of cyclists on the roads and make it very, very obvious and force people to recognize that cyclists need their space as well,” said Zvi Leve of the Montreal Bicycle Coalition.

Every last Friday of the month, cyclists gather at Phillips Square.

Nelson says in Montreal, Critical Mass has no official leadership or planning.

But the event has been going on for so long now that they’ve never considered asking for permission.

“Critical Mass has been going on in Montreal for 20 years and across the world for 20 years,” said Nelson.

“There is no organizer, there is no plan. We just meet and go for a collective bike ride. It’s family friendly, it’s not violent, there’s nothing happening that’s illegal.”

Each cyclist was slapped with a $500 fine.

Under violation of the Highway safety code, 500.1: “no person may obstruct in any way vehicular traffic on a public highway, occupy the roadway, shoulder or any other part.”

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The SPVM said they were unable to comment as they were still going through the details of the confrontation.

“They’re not targeting problematic cyclists but really basically anyone,” said Leve.

“They’re harassing them and they’re actually targeting the bike lanes as well so people who are trying to ride in bike lanes are actually being punished.”

“I think for the safety of everyone on the road, pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, that the SPVM need to prioritize what they want to do,” said Nelson.

Despite what Nelson considers a dangerous attack by police, she says Critical Mass will definitely be on next month – even more so now because of what happened Friday.

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