Nine months ago, it was a needless tragedy.
Today it stands as yet another reminder why so many people of all races are taking to the streets to demand justice, and change.
It was last September when a man died in police custody after a Las Vegas cop kneeled on his back, ignoring his repeated cries of “I can’t breathe.”
This is what I had to say at the time.
When a Las Vegas man took off running after police tried to pull him over for not having a headlight on his bike, a pair of cops chased him down, then kneeled on his back as the man complained he couldn’t breathe.
Which turned out to be his last words.
He was found with drugs and a gun, and had slipped an ankle monitor, which explains why he ran.
But what it doesn’t explain is why police didn’t respond to his complaint about not being able to breathe once they had him in custody.
And why they allowed a traffic stop to escalate into a lethal use of force.
What’s missing there is any reference to the victim’s race.
In retrospect, it almost goes without saying that he was Black, although the only reference to his race was a photo from the police press conference and a news report showing the victim’s grieving family.
And he had a name.
Byron Lee Williams.
I didn’t mention it at the time; I don’t normally mention the names of people outside of Southern California, and often not then.
But in retrospect, I should have.
Because he joins a long and growing list of black people unjustly killed by police.
Names like Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breanna Taylor and Michael Brown.
And Byron Lee Williams.
Which is not so say Williams didn’t do anything wrong. But nothing he did called for the death penalty. Or a summary execution without the benefit of a judge and jury.
And it never should have been allowed to escalate from something as minor as a simple traffic stop for a missing damn bike light.
Now Williams’ family is renewing their calls for justice, joining a loud, mournful and growing chorus of loved ones needlessly left behind.
As well they should. Especially in light of this, from a story released yesterday by NBC News.
Thompkins and Scott said the additional video showed officers dragging Williams around a corner, his body still limp, before dropping him on the ground. At one point, Thompkins said, the video showed Williams asking for an ambulance and an officer telling Williams that nobody was coming to help him.
Williams then fell silent, lying on the ground as the officers laughed and discussed weekend plans, Thompkins said.
I’ve known a lot of cops over the years, and worked with several as part of the LAPD’s bike liaison program.
With a few notable exceptions, most have struck me as caring men and women who want to do the right thing. And many want bad cops off the force as much as anyone else.
Although their union is another matter.
I’ve been quick to call the police out when they do something wrong. But I also recognize that my white skin means my experience isn’t the same as what my Black and brown friends have to go through at their hands.
And it’s entirely possible to recognize that police officers have dangerous jobs, and hope they all make it home at the end of his or her shift, while still recognizing that things have to change. Major, systemic changes.
It isn’t a matter of Black and white, liberal or conservative.
Just right and wrong.
Because we all have a right to get back home safely, and in one piece.
Regardless of skin color.
Thanks to David Drexler for the heads-up.
Great news from former national road, crit and track champ Justin Williams, whose crowdfunding campaign for his Legion of Los Angeles cycling team has raised well over twice the original $50,000 goal to promote diversity in the sport.
“Wow, that’s been crazy,” said Williams of the fundraiser. “We set the mark at $50,000 because we thought that would be a decent number, and I want to share with you guys what we are going to put all of that toward. It’s more than doubled so we will figure out more stuff to put it toward, but for the most part we will put the money toward team infrastructure.
“The funds will allows us to do team camps and more community engagement, which is something I really like to do. We will bring back junior day camps and BBQs, and elevate what that was. We’ll break it up into three and four hours with the whole L39ION team, and then break up into groups … and it will be open to every junior team.”
Nice to see someone rewarded for doing good work.
Authorities have identified the victim of Wednesday’s e-scooter fatality in Silver Lake as 68-year old Los Angeles resident Timothy Stirton.
He was killed when a driver speeding at least twice the posted 35 mph speed limit slammed into him before crashing into a local restaurant.
The driver, a woman in her 70s, said her car began to accelerate when she tried to slow it down, and only drove onto the wrong side of the road to avoid crashing into other vehicles.
Which sounds less like a mechanical failure than yet another argument for testing older drivers on a regular basis, before they mistake the gas pedal for the brakes.
The latest video from GCN explores the eternal question of whether you should get a roadie or a gravel bike.
If you can even find one in this market, that is.
The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on going.
No bias here. A Vancouver woman says a decision to close a local park to cars while a bike lane is built is just an example of knee-jerk anti-car hostility, and accuses the “bike lobby” of bullying. Funny how people who oppose bike projects are just concerned citizens, but supporters always seem to be part of some shadowy bike lobby.
Sometimes it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.
An accused Chechen hit man was apparently one of us, after he was seen throwing a wig, gun and a bicycle into a German river; prosecutors allege he murdered a Georgian man on orders from the Russian government.
The LA-area Helpful Honda Dealers teamed with the LAPD to buy a new adaptive tricycle for a Sherman Oaks boy with Down’s syndrome, after his was stolen last month.
Britney Spears is one of us, going for a bike ride with her boyfriend as part of a “fun-filled” day out.
Redding has become the first place in California to be honored with a bronze medal by the International Mountain Bicycle Association for its extensive trail system.
The fight over bike lanes is usually the need to remove parking spaces. In Santa Barbara, it means removing some fully grown trees.
A Fresno woman ran inside her house and locked the door after she was approached by a stranger. So he went into her open garage and walked off with a $1,700 ebike.
The New York Times offers detailed advice on how to start riding a bike in the age of coronavirus and bike shortages. Meanwhile, HuffPo offers suggestions from experienced bike riders for new urban bicyclists; always being predictable is a good place to start.
Streetsblog says this could be micromobility’s big moment as it experiences “stratospheric jumps” in usage around the US despite, or maybe because of, the pandemic.
A college professor explains how he lost 55 pounds after he changed careers and started bike commuting.
Portland bicyclists are riding to support Black Lives Matter protests and demand changes.
Never mind bike lanes. Cincinnati has over 570 miles of bike trails in the greater metro area.
Seriously? Buffalo NY residents are demanding changes after 120 pedestrians and 41 bike riders have been hit by drivers on a single street over the past five years, including three fatalities. Yet city officials have refused to implement traffic calming measures to save lives.
New York Streetsblog looks at the role bicycles play as a means of protest and exposing racism.
A Georgetown, Delaware organization bought a new bicycle for a 17-year old boy so he can get to work and keep his job.
Kindhearted Virginia cops dipped into their own pockets to buy a new bike for a young boy whose new bicycle was stolen just four hours after he got it, then they recovered his original bike in a creek; the boy’s parents say they’ll fix it up and give it to someone who needs one.
An Alabama man takes hit-and-run to the extreme, firing a gun in the street before assaulting a bike rider and stealing his bicycle, then fleeing on foot before he was captured by police.
Miami bike riders are in the same sinking boat as we Angelenos, as city leader leaders have failed to taken steps to accommodate the boom in bicycling.
No bias here, either. A letter writer in Key Biscayne, Florida demands a vote on a proposed new bike lane, saying bicyclists “don’t pay tolls or add to the economy, and in fact are just not good neighbors.” And swears locals will never give up their golf carts for a bike.
Scotland Yard is looking for a suspected serial bike thief accused of stealing nearly $12,500 worth of bicycles throughout the London area.
A Scottish op-ed calls bicyclists a threat to mature walkers, noting that older people may not be able to hear whistles or spoken warnings. Always ride with care around pedestrians of any age, and give them as wide a berth as possible, for their safety and yours.
The bike boom is real in the UK, and so is the bike shortage. One woman learns the bike she ordered won’t arrive until next year.
A new conversion kit from a Polish company promises to turn your bike into a smart ebike in just ten minutes.
Bikes are booming big time in Bangladesh, too.
An award-winning journalist is the subject of a fatwa from an Iranian cleric calling for her death, after she called for women to be allowed to ride bikes in the conservative Islamic country.
London’s Black Cycling Network has launched the UK’s first Black and ethnic minority cycling team.
Pez Cycling News talks with former Swedish cycling star Marianne Berglund, who won over a hundred races in the ’80s and ’90s.
That’s not a good thing.
Happy Juneteenth, and happy Father’s Day this Sunday.
Be safe, and stay healthy. And wear a mask, already.