The Reverend Al Sharpton, the family of Sean Bell, and an all-star cast of civil liberties advocates joined cyclists in Union Square last Friday for one of the more anticipated Critical Mass rides in recent memory. The gathering, which filled up the south end of the park, came three weeks after the Reverend led hundreds of supporters in an attempt to shut down major bridges and tunnels, protesting the acquittal of the officers who shot and killed Bell.
After a roster of speakers addressed topics ranging from parade rules to police violence to gay marriage, Sharpton tied up the disparate strands with a call for mutual support in the face of NYPD misconduct:
When we can come together as Critical Mass, if we can ride together, if we can protest together, we can make this city livable for everybody together. This is the picture they don't want to see -- people of all ages and all backgrounds and all races that will stand together. Because as long as they can play one community against each other, they get through the middle. It's when we gather as historically has happened at Union Square that the powers that be have to turn and buckle... When you demand the right to ride, that is all Sean Bell was doing that night, is trying to ride. And we are going to work together to have a critical mass in this city, where we can ride in justice.
The question is: What is wrong with the morals of a city that thinks there's something wrong with men going home from their bachelor's party? They're suspect. But it's the same mentality that tells us we can't gather in a square or a park, and read and talk and discuss.