Bikes will play a new role in Monday’s Occupy Seattle Port Shutdown: Seattle Bike Swarm.
From the Facebook event:
Meet at Westlake Plaza December 12th, 2011 1 PM
This is a call for every bike enthusiast, bike owner and bike rider to meet at Westlake Plaza at 1 PM on December 12th. From there, a march to shutdown the Port of Seattle will start. It will be extremely useful to have as many bikes as possible leading the march and being able to scout ahead. Please, spread this invitation widely to all of your friends.
In Portland, the Bike Swarm is something of combination of autonomous bike ride tactics (like Critical Mass) and Occupy Wall Street organizing and protesting tactics (like the People’s Microphone).
The PDX Bike Swarm was first used November 13 to support Occupy Portland protesters threatened with a late night eviction from Chapman and Lownsdale Squares. It proved a useful tactic as scores of people on bikes rode legally, circling the parks and adding an element that made the planned police actions even more difficult. At one poignant moment (captured near the end of the video posted below), the protesters were in the parks and only the police were in the roadway, blocking the bicycle riders from using the street (again, their legal right as vehicles). People on foot and on bike started chanting, “Who’s blocking traffic now?” and the police eventually stepped aside and the showdown ended.
Since then, the Bike Swarm has been evolving into a movement of its own, Bike Portland reports. They held a city-wide “Swarm the Banks” ride and are also planning to “Swarm the Port” Monday as part of the west coast port shutdown action.
Portland’s Bike Swarm started an interesting conversation about whether the action “politicizes” bicycling. Some say it reinforces stereotypes of bicyclists being scofflaws, etc. But given that the bicycle is a very powerful tool, why not also use it to protest? The Seattle Police use bikes in protests all the time.
A person on a bicycle could have a few important advantages in a protest. Unlike marching, it is legal to bike in the street. They can move more quickly and can see further (especially on a tall bike, Jonathan at Bike Portland points out).
Here’s video from November 13 in Portland: