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Does Civil Disobedience Like "Critical Mass" Inspire Change?

Does Civil Disobedience Like "Critical Mass" Inspire Change?

If you live in a city, chances are you know to avoid the streets during the last Friday of every month. That's when the event, Critical Mass, takes over with hoards of bicyclers all gathered together to ride the streets, snarling traffic, and calling attention to the plight of the two-wheeled rider. Some call it a social movement, a celebration, some a protest ride, and others, the mildly creative, "Critical Mess." Whatever the nomenclature, it's a happening that inspires passion — like this video taken at last Friday's Critical Mass ride in New York City.

In the video — especially in the slow-motion replay — it appears as though the police officer approaches the bicyclist and shoves him over. The officer has since been placed on desk duty pending investigation of the incident, but the video fully encompasses the conflicting viewpoints of mass disobedience as a means to enact change. The riders intend to disrupt order. That's the means by which they make their message heard — the thought is if enough people, a critical mass of people, follow suit and subjugate the norm, the norm will be questioned. However, from those on the other end of the "conversation," the disruption caused by these methods does more to denigrate the cause than to gain followers.

To those questioning why the police don't do more to control the event, and perhaps stop events like the one captured in the video, the Seattle Post Intelligencer had this to say yesterday: "police don't exactly have a hands-off policy, but they're not going to devote significant resources to the regular act of civil disobedience."

Is Critical Mass the perfect example of change-inspiring civil demonstration, or is the emphasis really on "disobedience?"

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