Police presence during RNC 8 solidarity ride questioned

About 40 bicyclists traveled in support of the group on Saturday.

About 40 bicyclists took to Minneapolis roads Saturday for the flagship demonstration of the RNC 8 National Day of Solidarity . And while organizers call the event an overall success, some say an excessive police presence âÄî shown in a Twin Cities Indymedia video as four officers on bicycles, marked and unmarked squad cars, and two police vans âÄî detracted from the objective of supporting the eight activists accused of plotting to violently disrupt the Republican National Convention. At least one wants answers about police involvement. âÄúIt was completely lawful and peaceful, and then there was this phalanx of police all the time behind us,âÄù said Mordecai Specktor , father of RNC 8 member and University of Minnesota cultural studies junior Max Specktor . Mordecai Specktor called his councilmember, Gary Schiff , who expects answers from police this week. âÄúIt seems unnecessary,âÄù Schiff said, noting that his specific concerns are whether the Minneapolis Police Department coordinates with others âÄî some St. Paul police officers were on site âÄî and whether overtime pay was used to patrol the demonstration. Schiff stopped short of demanding an apology for now, until he hears back about police protocol. Deputy police chief of patrol for the MPD Rob Allen said no one has asked for an apology and that he sent an e-mail to councilmembers addressing police actions Saturday. âÄúTheyâÄôve asked for explanations, and IâÄôve explained,âÄù he said, adding that heâÄôs only heard police acted professionally. He also said that because initial plans for the ride included visiting St. Paul sites, MPD worked alongside that cityâÄôs police department. Bicyclists didnâÄôt cross the river. The ride went past raid sites where police arrested the eight. Organizers billed it as a law-abiding demonstration. Max Specktor said despite police presence, the âÄúempoweringâÄù ride carried an important message. âÄúThese are places with a lot of baggage and we were able to reclaim them with a lot of community support,âÄù he said. First alerted to the ride a few weeks ago, Allen said his office had no idea how many demonstrators to expect, and had to ensure enough police to handle a large group. Bill Drebenstedt, arrested when he separated from the ride, is charged with disorderly conduct after he said he raised his fist and extended his middle finger. Police initially put Drebenstedt into one of the marked âÄúBooking VansâÄù that Allen said was filled with bike-repair equipment. Drebenstedt said he saw âÄúabsolutely no equipment in those vans.âÄù And while Allen said his primary goal was to make it a safe event, SaturdayâÄôs policing might have been too much. âÄúIn retrospect, yeah probably, but we had no idea how many people were going to be there,âÄù Allen said, adding that police were unsure whether more would join the demonstration later. Allen said officers tried to talk to riders at the starting point, Powderhorn Park , to determine that, but no one would talk. âÄúIf we were able to establish this, we probably wouldâÄôve sent the vast majority of officers home at that point,âÄù he said. But Brian Hokanson, a member of a group that helped organize the ride, said he saw no police-demonstrator interaction. âÄúI was among the first people at Powderhorn Park and that is patently false,âÄù he said. âÄúWe never had any police officers attempt to talk to us.âÄù As for the policeâÄôs objective of keeping people safe, Allen said traffic control was a key aspect. However, riders have indicated that bicycle officers largely stayed behind them, as did police vehicles, rather than moving ahead of them to guide traffic. They also said participants obeyed traffic laws. Max Specktor said he expects police presence at RNC 8 events, and believes itâÄôs meant to suppress dissent. He said a police apology for SaturdayâÄôs presence wouldnâÄôt solve the bigger issue of an overzealous police force. âÄúItâÄôs indicative of the case against us,âÄù Max Specktor said. âÄúItâÄôs not about doing any crime, about actually breaking any laws, itâÄôs about what we stand for.âÄù