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Calls for change after arrest of man “biking while black”

Calls for modification after arrest of male “biking while black”

Listen Listening … / / 6:22 In Oakland, black cyclists are more than six times as most likely than white cyclists to be pulled over by police officers. Last month, Najari Smith, a Richmond-based neighborhood organizer, was arrested by Oakland cops while biking and playing loud music. Now, cycling groups around the Bay Location are promoting modification. At a rally earlier this month, some four lots cyclists gather outside the Alameda County courthouse in Downtown Oakland. Reginald Burnette featured a stereo on the back of his dressed up tricycle. “What’s better than music and bicycles? They fit,” he says. Artist Daud Abdullah brought a military helmet with him that he turned into a mosaic art piece. The words on the helmet state ‘Authorities Protect Serve’ and ‘Black Lives Matter.’ “I wanted it to be gorgeous on the outdoors,” he says. “I didn’t want it to come across in any evil method.” Cycling activist Duane Deterville steps up to the megaphone. “What is being policed is black presence, that’s all people are doing, that’s exactly what Najari was doing, existing at a specific time, and revealing at a specific time,” Deterville states. Najari Smith gets up in front of the crowd, wearing a black visor that states “Regional Hip Hop Empowers Individuals.” He is the creator and executive director of Rich City Rides, a neighborhood cycling organization and bike shop. “No more policing of black expression,” Smith says. The group’s mission is to empower marginalized groups through bicycles. Rich City Rides, among other things, teaches kids and grownups how to develop bikes, repair bikes, and ride securely. A disturbed healing circle Growing up, Smith wanted to draw cartoons. Now, he says, his bike is his paintbrush. The streets are his canvas. He routinely leads group bike flights while a speaker on a trailer connected to his bike pumps out music. “It readies advertising. They come out, they dance to the music, they wave, they want they might be a part of it,’ Smith explains. “And we state, ‘Yes you can, you can be a part of it'”. It was throughout a group bike ride last month, at First Fridays in Oakland, that Smith was jailed. At the end of the ride, Smith and the other cyclists formed a circle at an intersection. This was a healing circle to honor Nia Wilson, the black lady who was stabbed to death by a white male on the MacArthur BART platform. “We were doing our ritualistic circle, on this special ceremony for Nia Wilson, this officer came by and grabbed my handlebars,” Smith says. Daud Abdullah turned a military helmet into a mosaic art piece. He brought it to the “Biking While Black” rally in Downtown Oakland. Credit Holly J. McDede/ KALW News Apprehended Inning accordance with Oakland authorities, the officer attempted to cite him for a noise violation and for impeding traffic. Smith says he turned the music down. “I’m attempting to hide the fact that I’m afraid, and I’m hoping me and the officer can talk things through, however that didn’t happen,” Smith keeps in mind. When Smith didn’t right away supply recognition, he was apprehended. He was scheduled into Santa Rita jail for the next 2 days. “Bail was set at 5,000 dollars,” Smith states. “I thought of Sandra Bland. I considered all the folks who this didn’t end well for.” Outrage and calls of “biking while black” Biking advocates and community organizers were outraged. More than a thousand people signed a petition requesting for the charges to be dismissed. Richmond’s mayor composed a letter to Alameda County’s District Attorney, demanding the very same thing. Days later, charges were dropped. However Smith says this issue is larger than one bicyclist’s arrest. Researchers at Stanford University discovered that black people make up nearly three quarters of people come by cops while cycling in Oakland. “I’m not the only person whose been racially profiled, individuals get racially profiled everyday,” Smith says. “There is something within the system that allows this.” Cyclists without music After he got out of jail, Smith went on a weekly self-care bike ride in Richmond with a group of bicyclists. He didn’t bring his speaker. The speaker that brings kids and seniors from their the homes of dance. The speaker that got him apprehended. Authorities took that speaker from Smith, and it wasn’t working when they returned it. Nakari Syon with Rich City Rides, says that without the music, it resembled a bike ride on mute. “People simply see the bikes, but they’re wondering, how come they’re not making no noise?” Syon says. Reginald Burnette turned a cruiser into a stereo. Credit Holly J. McDede/ KALW News “The healing needs to continue” After Smith’s arrest, Rich City Rides and other biking organizations required an end to the variation in traffic stops. It’s not yet clear how that could take place. However it is clear that black-led bicycle companies will keep going on healing trips. “It hurt, however if it takes that minute to create policy change, then so be it,” says Smith. The bicyclists brought their music to this rally. Jams thump from the back of the tricycle. For these cyclists, riding bikes while playing music is how they show they exist, how they reclaim their streets, and how they demand change. “So look, the only time I see bikers like this is when we’re about to do a trip,” a cyclist calls out to the group. They bike away together, wheels spinning and music pumping, so everybody can know they’re here. See all stories on this topic

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