The Politics Of Bike Liberation (or Ten Hours In Jail, LOL).

(A quick “fucking duh” note: there is no fucking way I would ever come close to doing anything remotely resembling condoning something as low and fucked up as bike theft. Bikes are a beautiful liberating thing, and I would never, ever, FUCKING EVER support taking one if it’s obviously in use. One love and all that shit.)

Hey guys, I realize that most of this post will fall on deaf ears due to my position as resident agitator. I’m not asking for sympathy, I’m just relating a story of how my love of bicycles got me arrested, 10 hours in a jail cell and a court date.

I don’t know about you guys, but it breaks my heart to see stripped bikes. You know what I mean. Some dude (or lady) left an old ten speed left out in the wrong place on the wrong night and it gets ransacked by crackheads, left essentially useless. Due to it’s lack of parts, they’re normally left for dead.

I couldn’t stand it. There was a beautiful panasonic road frame that had been exposed to such treatment locked over by 30th street station. I don’t mean it had the bar wrap taken off or something, I mean there was only a frame and bottom bracket left, and the bottom bracket was pitted to the point of non-rotation.

As far as I was concerned this was unacceptable. Why should a perfectly useable (not to mention pretty) frame be relegated to rotting next to a train station until the city decides to cut the lock and throw the frame away? Why not cut the lock yourself and do something constructive with the bike, turning what was destined to be garbage into a symbol of freedom, utilitarianism and straight up fucking fun?

Flawed or not, that was the logic that lead us to the train station with a drill and a pipe wrench, determined to liberate this forlorn beast from the steel captor that imprisoned it and left it to a life of abuse at the hands of an unforgiving city.

And we came close.

We first drilled into the lock to try to fuck up the tumblers to keep them from setting, hopefully allowing the lock to pop off without too much hassle. When that failed to work, we tried to leverage it off with a pipe wrench. The lock was bending and close to breaking when Amtrak police came strolling out. “Oh word” I remember thinking to myself, “Now we can discuss this with them”. As far as I saw it, we were doing them a favor by removing an eyesore from their property, and I didn’t see what we were doing as criminal. No such luck. We were instructed to put our hands up against the wall, patted down and all that jazz. After a little routine verbal harassment (and vague threats made by the cops against our own bikes), we were cuffed and thrown in the holding cell for the amtrak police. The time was 6 Pm.

Me and my friend did our best to kill time. We discussed bicycle aesthetics (he thinks anything not lugged and threaded isn’t worth casting a second glance at, I disagree wholeheartedly). We discussed graffiti. We discussed what we’d rather be doing. We discussed our girlfriends. We sang Judas Priest songs. At around 7PM, we were asked some routine questions. I tried to answer them as best and as cooperatively as I could. Lots of “Yes sir, No sir”'s and such. My friend, in an attempt to also be as cooperative as possible asked him “do you have anymore questions”. While he truly meant this as an attempt at cooperation, the hulking, short tempered cop took this as an affront to his authority and immediately went on a ten minute screaming tirade about beating the shit out of my friend and me, keeping his face about an inch from my friend’s at all times.

At about 8:30 I was transferred from the amtrak holding cell to the 18th district jail in southwest philly. My friend stayed behind (he’s 18 and is being charged as an adult, I later found out he got transferred about an hour after me). As soon as I walk in I catch shit from cops on all sides of me. Due to me looking rather unkept (IM PUNX YO) and my arrest as a supposed “bike thief”, there was speculation on everyones part as to what drug I’m addicted to. Most guessed meth. When I told them my actual reason for doing what I did, no one believed me (as par for the course) and more insults and berating I just shut up. After standing in the office for awhile I was instructed to give them my belt, keys, and empty my pockets. I was then moved into a freezing cold, dirty, blue tiled juvenile cell with two vicious looking kids from west philly, who I found out were detained for beating and robbing a woman.

As soon as I got in and sat down the hazing started. “Stand the fuck up whiteboy” said the one with “LANCE” tattooed down his right arm. I remained seated. “GET THE FUCK UP OR I’M GONNA FUCKING KILL YOU”. I still remained seated. I wasn’t about to start a fight, but I could take the kid well enough if I had to fight. Seeing that I wasn’t gonna get shook, he was quiet for a few minutes and then said “Yo whiteboy…whatchu here for”. I related my tale, to which he was reasonably receptive. He told me in rather graphic detail why he was here, what he would do to these cops if he caught them off duty (it was generally either beat the shit out of them or fuck the shit out of them if it was an attractive girl). He had also been in our particular cell 8 times previously (!) and got into a fight the last time he was here (which he won, of course). His friend remained quiet for the entire night.

It quieted down for a while. I spent my time reading the phrases scratched into the plate glass (my personal favorite was "yo boys im up the heights until 1/30/86), pacing, shadowboxing or making attempts at sleep. and waiting.

and waiting.

and waiting.

At 12:45 or so we were transferred to another block so we could wait to get our prints done. This was a classic “jail cell”. Iron bars, toilet, one metal chair. A scream bleeded out from down the hall: “YO I FUCKED UP MY HEAD I NEED HELP”. One of my cellmates knew the guy inhabiting the next cell over, so they talked about why they were there. Eventually we all went out and sat on the bench at around 1AM.

The other two kids got their prints and mugshots first. By this time I was so distraught (I have problems controlling my anxiety and being locked in a small room, not knowing when you’re gonna be free again didn’t help) and weak (I hadn’t eaten since 10AM the previous morning, and hadn’t had a drink in the same amount of time. My request for water at 3am was met with a harsh “shut the fuck up”) that I figured I might as well have some fun.

My rap sheet lists me as “Buddhist”, and my mug shot is me, smiling, with my hair in a ponytail wearing a ratty Bad Brains shirt. I’m not proud of many things I do, this was a notable exception.

After this we were carted back to our first cell. I was having a full blown anxiety attack which I had to conceal so I wouldn’t get jumped by my cellmates. An anxiety attack that lasted for the next hour. I mean, think about it. You’re locked in a cell, not told when you get to leave or even if you’re GOING to leave, have no toilet to use, no food or water and no one to talk to. For hours on end.

Nothing much happened. I shadowboxed, I watched tv through the scratched up windows, I waited. Words can’t describe the anger, hate, rage, despair and boredom I felt for those hours.

At 4:30am they carted us all out, handed us our belts, keys, wallets, phones, shoelaces etc. We signed a release, were issued our court dates and were turned over to our parents. My total time in custody, from arrest to release, was 10 and a half hours. My court date is tomorrow, the 14th. I also have to go down to amtrak with proof of ownership to reclaim my bike.

My friend was released at noon today, and was able to get his bike back into his possession within the hour.

I don’t know what I was trying to accomplish writing all that. I guess I think it’s a tall price to pay for loving bikes and wanting to rescue and rebuild them. Maybe it wasn’t the most legal way I could’ve gone about doing it, and in hindsight it seems kinda stupid, but my only crime was enjoying those beautiful metal pieces of freedom we call the bicycle.


ohhh no!

edit: that’s unfortunate man, was this in the middle of the day you went about this? i’ve always thought about what i would do if i came about a situation where a bike was in need of rescue and i never knew what i would do. but like you said it was stealing, hope your hearing goes well

it’s actually a tall price to pay for stealing something. I know it sounds alright and I’m inclined to agree with you but did you ever consider speaking to city officials about the frames? You might be able to get access to the frames after they go through and cut out a bunch.

Make sure to sound like you’re sorry in court. Dont try to preach to the judge, the law is the law in their eyes. Show remorse for your actions and tell them that you realize there are other avenues for rescuing such bicycles. Good luck!

I actually thought about that while i was locked up, it is definitely the route to take and i’m stupid for not seeing that. my friend was considering starting a business where he would remove bikes for the city, dont know if he will now.

There was a stripped pink Bianchi frame in DC about two years ago that I had my eye on. Here is where I contribute something actually valuable to tarckbike:

So, I went with some tools to try to bust open the U-Lock. Was not having much luck. Noticed a cop car parked across the street. I walked over, said “hey officer, I locked my bike here a few weeks ago and got my purse stolen, so I lost my keys. I came here with my friend to try to get the frame loose, since everything else has gotten stolen, just wanted to check in so you know nothing’s going on.”

he said: “oh, I’m not going to be on duty here much longer, there shouldn’t be any other cops in the area, this isn’t a high-priority area tonight, but if anyone gives you trouble tell them my name”

if you are ever liberating a bike SAY THAT IT IS YOURS AND MAKE UP A STORY ABOUT HAVING LOST YOUR KEYS and stick to it, ymmv

i realized that too, haha. I had a lot of time to think. They didn’t ask us any questions pertaining to ownership, we were immediately detained. I wouldn’t’ve thought to do that but my friend might’ve.

if you did not make any statements there is no reason you could not get away with saying that the bike is actually yours

the fact that (and i found this out later) i was on a homeland security patroled area kinda led to cops being a little more vigilant then they normally are. we had no opportunity to make statements.

man if it weren’t lying under oath I would totally say the bike was mine and stick with it

The funest part about the first time I was arrested was when I told them I was vegitarien and the cop told me to shut the fuck up and eat my goddamn balony sandwitch. I ate the bread.

I can’t believe your court date’s tomorrow! I’ve never had one less than a month after the arrest.

What, did they think you were trying to make that bike a pipebomb?

Good luck with your date homie.

Too bad you’re so mean and ugly, or I’d be sympathetic.

You’ll just get community service. Boo-hoo.

i love this bike is a pipebomb.

and thanks, the initially were gonna give me a laundry list of charges but my dad talked em down to just vandalism.

Should have stabbed the cop, IMHO.

that would’ve been a story for my kids for sure.

I know the feeling of rage, anger, hate, and despair. I was arrested once (and only once) for an alleged “resisting arrest”. That was over three years ago. I’m still bitter as fuck, hate the shit stain of a town that they call sandusky ohio, and it makes me hate HATE HATE HATE HATE cops. FUCK!!!

I had to go to court the very next day five hours after I was released from jail. I did make it to cedar point.

good luck man.

vandalism? thats bullshit, you weren’t even messing with amtrak or city property. see if you can get your community service to have something to do with liberating bikes in a legal manner, that’d be rad. or volunteer at a local bike coop or something. basically, turn it into an opportunity to do something you can really get behind instead of picking up trash off the street.

shit man that sucks. amtrak cops are the worst, second only to septa cops.
aren’t you already on probation? how’s that gonna be affected?

How are you supposed to prove your bike is yours?

How can they get you for vandalism when it wasn’t the city’s property? An abandoned bike belongs to everybody, if it truly abandoned.