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Ramirez-Rosa’s office recovers 22 more bikes CPD confiscated from racial justice protesters

6:19 PM CDT on September 3, 2020

Recovered bikes at the 35th Ward office. Photo: Ariel Parella Aureli

Recovery efforts to reunite cyclists with their bikes taken by police at the July 17 Columbus statue protest slowly continue as alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa's 35th Ward office leads the charge in getting them back from the Chicago Police Department.

In partnership with Safe Bike Chicago, a group formed to assist protesters who lost their cycles, and the Chicago National Lawyers Guild, the ward is recovering 22 more bikes that will be delivered to the office on Friday, according to Jessica Vasquez, chief of staff for Ramirez-Rosa. 

These bikes are the latest batch to be released from CPD after an agreement was reached between the city, the alderman and the NLG to release cycles nabbed by police at the July 17 protest. According to police, over 75 bikes were taken that day, as well as another 17 at a Loop protest held on August 15 in response to the CPD shooting of a young Black man in Englewood. Three weeks ago, Ramirez-Rosa helped get 39 bikes from the July protest, and his office held two pickup events for people to get their wheels back. 

Vasquez said six out of the original 39 recovered bikes remain at the office for pickup, and five are being held for repairs. Volunteers with Safe Bike Chicago offered to fix bikes for protesters that came back damaged. Vasquez added that the office plans to hold another pickup event Sept. 20 for people to get their bikes from both batches. 

The 22 newly recovered bikes bring the total recovery number to 61, which means CPD still has at least 14 bikes. Ramirez-Rosa’s office is still working with the city to recover those remaining cycles as well as those taken at the August 15 protest, although he previously told Streetsblog that the process will be lengthy because the city is requiring stringent proof of ownership for each bike.

However, Ramirez-Rosa said he remains committed to working with CPD and NLG to help get the bikes back to their owners, which is especially important during the pandemic. "So many people depend on their bikes for their livelihood and main form of transportation, particularly in this pandemic when people might not want to share a car or take public transportation, especially as it’s increasingly difficult to find a bike."

Ramirez-Rosa has bike marshaled at protests in the past and said he knows the value forming barricades with bikes to help keep protesters separated from the police. As such, he was glad to use his position as an elected official to help out protesters who lost their rides.

“Being a marshal is not a glamorous job, it’s a volunteer role, but an extremely important role,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “It was [concerning] to hear that marshals or other attendees who had used their bikes to protect themselves or protect marchers had their property seized by the city.”

Safe Bike Chicago volunteers said they they want to make sure that people who lost their bikes while exercising their First Amendment rights are taken care of. The group has seen an outpouring of community support to help protesters who’ve had cycles confiscated, raising $80,000 in three days after the July 17 protest. Funds raised are going towards bikes for protesters and marshals, as well as giving out stipends for bike repairs or day-to-day needs. Chicle, a volunteer with Safe Bike, said the monetary gifts, which could be a couple hundred dollars, are the group’s way of showing kindness and gratitude to those on the front lines. They also received over 40 bikes at a recent bike donation event. 

“There is going to continue to be more of a need for folks who can respond to these actions and try to be there support folks who could be kicked out of their houses or are just trying to have a peaceful march,” Chicle previously told me. 

Safe Bike and the NLG plan to reach out to people whose bikes will be ready for pickup ahead of the next pickup session, but you can email info[at]safebikechicago.org for more info.

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