Manitoba

Cyclists, police clash on downtown streets

Seven people are facing charges after a protest by cyclists turned into a scuffle with police on Friday afternoon.

Seven people are facing charges after a protest by cyclists turned into a scuffle with police on Friday afternoon.

A group of about 70 protesters associated with the Critical Mass cyclists' movement met at Central Park late Friday afternoon and began to ride through downtown streets, sometimes taking up all lanes of traffic in one direction to impede rush-hour traffic.

The group, part of an informal international network of Critical Mass groups, holds a monthly ride through downtown Winnipeg to raise awareness of cycling as an environmentally friendly and healthy alternative to vehicle commuting, and to draw attention to the needs of cyclists who travel on city streets.

Winnipeg police said Monday that the cyclists were impeding traffic and causing a danger to motorists and themselves.

Officers tried to direct the cyclists off the road, but police say they were ignored. When the officers began handing out traffic tickets to riders, police say some members of the group assaulted the officers.

"Police officers would have approached individuals who were disobeying the rules of the road after being given several warnings," said Sgt. Kelly Dennison. "[They] would have been asked to please stop as they would have been issued Highway Traffic Act offence notice, at which point they would have either pushed or shoved police officers, in an attempt to get them to continue on on their merry way."

Several cyclists have disputed the police characterization of events, saying police officers themselves impeded traffic by blocking the road with cruiser cars and that they did not try to hand out traffic tickets.

The cyclists accuse police officers of inciting the skirmish by using excessive force to physically remove cyclists from their bicycles.

Seven people were arrested and face charges ranging from Highway Traffic Act offences to obstructing and assaulting a police officer.

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