So most of you have probably already heard, because Brett angry-texted everybody in his phone while it was going down, but we had a little run in with the big bad MPD last night. Around 1 am, Brett, Charles, Andrew, Catherine, and I headed downtown to jump the stairs in front of the Forum. We went straight down Poplar, which was fine for a weeknight that late; hardly any cars in sight. We got to Second (a one way street) and turned left. Andrew veered off left at Jefferson to check out some little stairs in front of the courthouse, which was the first bad idea. Never smart to linger around federal buildings at night, but we got away with that.
Shit hit the fan when we turned left back onto Second. Charles, Andrew, and I cut way across to the right lane, and Brett and Catherine stayed left, both of these moves being fine because it was a one way street. But then officer Ernie Craft spotted us and, of course, started giving us crap. By this time, we had all met together in the right lane, and he passed us on the left, saying over his loudspeaker, "next time I better see y'all wearin helmets, understand?" It was over a muffled loudspeaker atop a moving vehicle, so no, not all of us understood, and with the slightest shake of Andrew's head, good ole Ernie pulls us over.
Right off the bat, dude looks me in the eye and asks me how old I was. I guess I looked too young to be on a bike, what the heck. After taking all of our IDs, he starts writing us tickets for not wearing helmets. We, being the well educated and prepared cyclists, politely asked him if it actually is illegal, which it isn't, but he (the cop, mind you) did not know this fact. After realized he could quite possibly be a dumb, hot-headed cop, he quickly changed the charge to "obstructing traffic". This is 1 am downtown on a weeknight; traffic was nonexistent.
I automatically think to get this guys's car, license plate, and badge number, and I got a pen out of my bag and started writing them down on my hand while he's running our IDs in his car. Immediately, the cop comes stomping out of the car, saying "I'll give you something to need those numbers for" and puts me in the back of the car. ME! A little, innocent girl that apparently was too threatening to not have contained inside a police car. I freaked out for a second, but after realizing he didn't have anything to arrest me for, it basically just turn into a smelly and boring place to have to spend a half an hour. Apparently Charles was being too dangerous also, and ended up joining me for a few minutes, after being searched.
The cop eventually called for back-up because he didn't want to write out 5 tickets himself. They eventually let us out of the car, but we still were stuck sitting on the curb until 2:45 while they searched through a two-inch thick book of codes, just to make sure we were actually breaking a law. We ended up all getting citations for "obstructing highway or passageway", which is in violation of code 21-139. This would be true, but technically to be "obstructing", there has to be at least one other vehicle present, which there was not. Even if there were other cars, we are allowed to be in the right lane of traffic, which is right where we were. The other two cops basically thought that Ernie was full of it, and I think they kind of felt sorry for us, but dude has influence, apparently.
Us, with our citations (Charles's being a torn-up ball wooshing down past his face)
We all have the same court time and date, which also happens to be Charles birthday. The whole thing isn't that big of a deal and the ridiculous charges will most likely be dropped, but it's just an example of how terrible cycling conditions are in Memphis. No only are roads bad and motorists evil, but even the Man keeps us down, when we aren't even breaking laws. Even this time wasn't as bad as when Charles got hit by a car, who fled the scene, and he still ended up with a traffic ticket. Some lady hit him and drove off, leaving Charles with a ticket, a bent frame, and a dislocated shoulder.
It was three hours of cops researching what they could charge us with, while constantly asking us how old we were. We each answered that question around 6 times. AND, they all left their cars running for the whole three hours, which kind of pisses me off more. Our law enforcers are not only ignorant jerks, they're wasteful, ignorant jerks. Brett might write a more articulate post later, but I was too baffled to not tell as many people about this as I could and as soon as possible.
We live in Memphis. We don't know the meaning of bike lanes or compensation, whether monetary or medical, when we get hurt riding our bikes because of cars. Here in Memphis, it's always going to be the cyclist's fault. We can't argue with being written a citation, and we also can't retaliate and raise hell because we all have jobs and responsibilities we can't risk by being arrested. Tonight I felt that being a cyclist stripped me of my rights and I had no power. I couldn't do anything but give in to something that was completely wrong. The officer even threatened us by saying if we didn't sign our citations, we would be going to jail.
I hadn't really let this situation bother me until now. Even when I was in the car, I was completely calm and strong-willed, but now that I'm typing it all out, I realize that this sucks really hard. We need to do everything we can to make this never happen again. This is a small incident for us, but a HUGE injustice to every cyclist in Memphis. We need to make this better somehow.