The Coastal Post - August, 1998

The Death Of Casey Moe, The Murder Of Truth, And What Cyclists Can Expect From San Francisco

By Ken McCarthy

Unless you spent last summer on a desert island, you know that last July the Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown ordered his long time friend Deputy Chief Dick Holder to organize a violent attack on cyclists in the monthly Critical Mass ride.

Several squads of bat wielding police ran into a crowd of cyclists and pedestrians on Market Street between 4th and 5th attacking people at random. Cyclists were knocked to the ground; a professional photographer was roughed up and had his camera taken from him; and one man, a pedestrian on his way home from his job as a computer programmer, was knocked to the ground, kicked, pepper sprayed and handcuffed. The man, a childhood polio victim who had made a spectacular recovery, still walks with a cane and is in constant pain a year later as a result of the incident.

Prior to the July "riot," Critical Mass had been such a non-event that it had not even been mentioned in the local newspapers until the June ride. Yet, for reasons that have yet to be explained, over 100 police officers underwent special crowd control and riot tactics training the week before the July ride.

Amazingly, the San Francisco police pulled the intersection-blocking escort they had traditionally provided the ride at the last minute without warning or notice leaving over 5,000 cyclists stranded in downtown rush hour traffic. "Supervision" for the event was then taken away from Captain Dennis Martel whose 30 person squad had safely escorted the ride for years and turned over to Deputy Chief Dick Holder. A half hour after the command switch, officers under orders from Holder were blindly assaulting tourists, pedestrians, and cyclists on Market Street right in front of the Powell Street cable car turnaround.

None of this information has been reported by the local newspapers, but the details including eye witness testimony, photographs and video stills are available for your examination here (over 100 pages):

On August 28, 1998, the day before the August Critical Mass ride, a van owned by J.C. Decaux and operated by an unlicensed employee, sped through an intersection in downtown rush hour traffic and struck and killed a 25 year old bicycle messenger named Casey Moe. The driver walked away without so much as a traffic ticket and the San Francisco Police Department and District Attorney's office, under the direction of Terrence Hallinan, declared the driver and the company, which allowed the driver to operate the van without a license, blameless.

Before this accident, J.C. Decaux won an exemption from the California legislature to line San Francisco's main artery, Market Street-a part of the California Highway system-with its billboards. The lobbyist in their effort to change traffic safety laws for profit was Mayor Willie Brown who is prohibited by law from representing private clients while he is in office. In addition to treating Mayor Brown and then-Director of Traffic and Parking Gavin Newsome to an all expense paid trip to Paris, J.C. Decaux has also ingratiated itself with the local newspapers giving them modern dispensers for their newspapers and other perks.

The original press report mentioned that Casey Moe was struck by a J.C. Decaux van. Twenty four hours later, that detail was removed from all press reports. Press releases and comments from SFPD's media relations officer Sherman Ackerson helped spread the falsehood that Moe was at fault for the accident and was "driving recklessly." Oddly, not a single eye witness can be found who will verify this police/media/J.C. Decaux version of events.

The Chronicle, northern California's biggest circulation newspaper, placed the site of the accident approximately 50 feet away from where it actually occurred lending credence to the "reckless cyclist" story and obscuring the fact the collision took place either in or very near a busy Market Street crosswalk. As outrageous as all this may sound, the details of this story have been thoroughly documented and you can examine photographic and other evidence for yourself here:

Human Rights Watch, an international research group that monitors human rights abuses worldwide, recently singled out the San Francisco Police Department as one of the most poorly supervised in the nation in its 450 page study of police abuse of power in the US.

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