By Shiv Malik
Aedewan Adnan from Malaysia, who had joined his father in Kolkata in November to raise money for charity and support the Malaysian Olympic team, was held by police with 181 others including a 13-year-old boy after participating in last Friday’s Critical Mass – a monthly event which seeks to promote safe road cycling by riding in numbers – after getting too close to the Olympic stadium. The mass detention of cyclists under the Public Order Act came a few days before gold medallist Bradley Wiggins said that cyclists may receive more legal protection if they wore helmets following a biker’s death near the Olympic Park on Wednesday evening.
Lawyers acting for a number of those arrested said they were looking into whether the mass arrests were illegal; a 2008 House of Lords ruling gave Critical Mass exemption from certain provisions of the act.
Adnan who rode through Iran, Turkey, Romania and Germany to get to the Games, said he often took part in the Critical Mass ride in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia and decided to join the London event on Friday evening with his cousin at Waterloo Bridge.
“At 7pm, we left Waterloo Bridge, we just followed wherever the group went. Towards the end of the ride, we ended up at Stratford. Me and my cousin thought it would be okay as he lives near Barking and it is not far from Stratford.”
Adnan said that, at 9pm, he was kettled by police as he stopped by a Tesco to buy food to he break his daily fast during Ramadan.
“Me and my cousin didn’t know what was going on … there was word going around that we would be arrested for protesting against the Olympics.”
Adnan says he was taken to a police station in Bromley, south London, and detained on a bus for six hours before police realised he was a tourist and released him without charge. He said officers at the station apologised but that the experience left him with a “quite a bitter taste” in his mouth.
“I told them I was a tourist and I’d cycled to London for the Olympics. I guess that must have had an impact as I was released without any conditions.”
“Although London is not so cycle friendly such as Holland or Germany, but with the efforts of the cycling community and mayor Boris Johnson, I hope things will get better,” he said. “I really hope that the other people that were arrested will have all the charges and conditions dropped. It would be a shame if they were charged for having a fun ride around the city.”
Other people arrested said the bail conditions, which included staying outside of the Olympic borough of Newham on a bicycle, not entering “any Olympic-only carriageway” or going within 100 metres of an Olympic venue, have stopped them from attending the Games or made it impossible to get to work.
One civil servant caught up in the arrests said he had to plead with police to change bail so he could continue to cycle to work in Whitehall near the Olympic venue of Horse Guards Parade.
One female cyclist said that after being arrested and cuffed, her bail conditions stopped her from attend the men’s gymnastics event the next day.
“[These were] tickets which I had bought nearly a year ago and which I had been looking forward to attending … I am disappointed and angry that I am now being excluded from celebrating the Olympics.”
Police said they arrested the cyclists around the Bow Flyover, Stratford under section 12 of the Public Order Act after the group failed to heed warnings not to ride to the north bank of the river Thames or cycle in a group on the Olympic route network.
Law lords ruled in 2008 that Critical Mass was not a protest and police could not insist under section 11 of the act that it must give notice of their monthly rides. “Spontaneity is at their heart. To insist upon a settled route would be to destroy their character and purpose,” the lords found.Lawyers believe the ruling might also exempt them from section 12,, making the mass arrest illegal.This article originally appeared here.