And to think it happened in America – Portland, Oregon, to be precise.

Michael Hernandez was getting ready to go home after a typical working day. He texted his wife Christina in the early evening of November 9, 2012, to let her know he was on his way and would see her soon. He hopped on his bicycle and began his commute home.

He was pulling up to an intersection when a police cruiser came screaming up behind him. An officer leaped out, yelling at Mike to stop and “get the fuck off the bike.” Another officer ran up and pulled the bike out from under him and before Mike could even gather his senses, he had been handcuffed, his messenger bag and hip pouch taken, his pockets cleared and his bike, his beloved Darlene, was confiscated. A van pulled up behind and four more officers assisted in taking down this hardened criminal.

He didn’t even know why he was being arrested, even after asking, until he was in a downtown holding cell about an hour later. The charges were: disorderly conduct, interfering with a peace officer, attempted assault on a public safety officer, and harassment.

Mike Hernandez recovers from a pepper spray blast directly into his face by Portland police Nov. 3.

Six days earlier, Mike had been one of about a thousand people participating in a “Solidarity Against Austerity” rally which had been completely peaceful until a line of cops pulled out the pepper spray. As a result of dumb luck, Mike had been directly in the line of fire and got a generous cloud of caustic chemistry directly in the face.

Important legal note
The Portland Police take it very seriously if you put your face in the way of a pepper spray blast, and they will feel harassed and assaulted by your carelessness.

Apparently, over the next few days after the demonstration, the police carefully examined the many videos of the incident which indignant demonstrators posted online in the aftermath of the unprovoked assault, and they figured out Mike’s identity.  It cannot have been too hard: He is extravagantly mustachioed, absurdly tall and generously tattooed. But it just so happens that for some reason they didn’t get around to arresting him until six days later, late on a Friday, with a Veterans’ Day holiday the following Monday.

The timing put Mike in a double bind. If he chose not to talk to the cops he would surely be locked up over the long weekend, and they had taken his phone so that he was unable to call his wife to tell her why he was running a few hours late.

Meanwhile, Christina was growing more and more worried. Where was Mike? He had said he was just leaving and then – nothing. Should she start calling hospitals?  Was there a news report about a biker in a hit-and run? She began to panic as no news was forthcoming. It wasn’t until 9:30 that night that the Multnomah County Corrections Department finally called to inform her that Mike had been arrested. By that point, it actually felt like good news. After all, at least now she knew he was alive.

Mike was finally released on his own recognizance at around 2:30am and told Christina not to bother picking him up, since she had to work early the next morning. The police were hanging on to his bike Darlene, but he just wanted to walk home. He was feeling a lot of excess energy.

They say Mike tried to assault an officer with his bike at the Nov. 3 rally, and they are holding on to Darlene as “evidence.”  There has been no word about CSI agents discovering any fingerprints or DNA on the bicycle, or what they think Mike would do to destroy their “evidence” if they were so careless as to let him, y’know, ride it.

Mike was arraigned on Nov. 13, and dozens of people crowded into the courtroom to stand with him. The legalities were quickly dispatched, and then the judge asked if Mike had any questions.  “Yes, your honor,” Mike replied. “Can I get Darlene – er, my bike released?”

The answer to that was no.

Darlene

If you see this bike, please do NOT call the Portland police.

Here’s the thing about Darlene. Not only is his bike Mike’s primary means of transportation, it is also something very near and dear to his heart. As he wrote:

“On August 9, 2008, I completed my enlistment in the United States Air Force and on the same exact day, I began a new journey on a bicycle I named Darlene whom I rode from Everett, Washington, to Washington, D.C. The ride covered 4291.7 miles … and it completely changed my life. I experienced America in a way I wish most Americans could experience… I’ve ridden Darlene through much of Alaska, and she has been my trusty companion through my travels throughout Oregon.”

Friends set up a legal fund for Mike which quickly met and surpassed its $1700 goal. The criminal case against him is grinding through the legal system at a snail’s pace and still, Darlene sits in an evidence locker somewhere, while Mike makes his way around Portland on an ill-fitting bike that has no name and did not carry him across a continent.

But the thing that bothers Mike most is how needlessly his wife was left to worry and panic when he was not allowed to call her for several long hours on that dark Friday evening. He thinks about how nice it might have been if his arrest had been videotaped, or if he’d been able to yell to someone, “Please call my wife and tell her what happened!”

“If you see something, record it.”
For this reason, he’s begun suggesting to anyone who’ll listen that, if they see someone being arrested, they should pull out their smartphone or other device to record the incident. He’s curious about what his own arrest must have looked like.  Surely someone on that well-traveled intersection noticed six cops descending upon a hapless cyclist and slapping the cuffs on him. “If you see something, record it,” he advocates. “You might be the only person on the scene to document a bad arrest – or at least let a family member know their loved one has been detained.”

Supporters made “Free Darlene” buttons to publicize the imprisonment of Mike’s bike.

During his brief stay at the Multnomah County Jail, officers probed him for information about key organizers of the Nov. 3 rally, even asking specific names. Mike readily admitted that he knew some of these people; he’d been on bike rides with them. He found out later that cops contacted the named individuals almost immediately.

Important legal note
If you participate in demonstrations in Portland, do your best to be short and inconspicuous.

And: Leave your favorite bike at home. Six days later.


The original pepper-spray incident was written up in the Daily Censored here: http://www.dailycensored.com/no-more-mr-nice-cop-police-state-holds-fast-in-portland/

Nick Caleb, one of the “named individuals” Portland police asked Mike about, has been documenting the police bureau’s PR campaigns to deter Portland residents from participating in demonstrations. His article about the police reaction to the Nov. 3 anti-austerity rally is here: http://www.blueoregon.com/2012/11/anatomy-portland-police-media-campaign/