Rise and Shine with Critical Mass

It’s 7:30 a.m. on inaugural Thursday, and the sun has just about risen. Temperatures are expected to hover in the 30s throughout the afternoon – which is almost balmy, given yesterday’s frigidity. The local newspapers are predicting approximately 100,000 people will show up for the big parade, which kicks off at 2:30 p.m. But those who have come to protest keep telling me the numbers will be higher still.

At the Critical Mass bike ride – the day’s first official counter-inaugural action – dozens of people have trekked down to Union Station with their bikes, primarily from Baltimore, Tacoma Park, and other areas surrounding D.C. They’re here to protest, but not in the standard chant-and-confront sort of way. They’re into the social ambiance of a bike ride – the casual cruise along city streets, en masse, an unobtrusive expression of dissent. Indeed, you might not know these cyclists were protesting the policies of the Bush administration were it not for the occasional sign trumpeting such slogans as “Stop letting the RICH rape our land,” and “Ugly poster? Ugly president!”

While the Critical Mass bike rides have been known to result in mass arrests – case in point, the New York bike ride during the Republican National Convention – this one has appeared to go off without a hitch. Only a handful of beat cops could be found surveying the ever-increasing crowd of cyclists.

After about a half hour of milling about and passing out fliers (pictures of George W. under the headings “Dead President” and “Texas Idiot”), the cyclists kicked off the first anti-inaugural activity with little to no fanfare. Dozens of them, nearing a 100 or so, mounted their bikes, circled the station’s Christopher Columbus statute and traveled East, pedaling away into the horizon.

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