Thursday, October 20, 2005

Masha Gessen's Moscow Times column - A Battle Over a Bicycle - on the mess Moscow cops carry in their heads. Very nice.

Reminds me of a scene I witnessed a few weeks ago at Aleksandrovskiy Garden - is that what it's called? - a very touristy place, right next to the Kremlin wall.

Four young guys were practicing various dangerous movements on their bikes, using stairs way off the main pedestrian area. That, and it was a weekday, so there weren't many people around: if the guys suddenly and inexplicably lost control of their bikes, there'd be no one to maim except themselves.

Two cops, a guy and a girl, both wearing those tacky jackets made of the cheapest-looking, artificial leather, were riding absolutely beautiful, young horses along the pedestrian area. I was walking behind them, and it was all very sweet - until they noticed the bicycle guys: they sped up their horses quite theatrically, the male cop approached the teens from the front, while the female rode up to them from the rear. One of the boys managed to escape and stood at a distance, leaning on his bike and watching; the other three were trapped.

I didn't stop to watch, but I can only walk very slowly now, so I did see the male cop first talking to the boys, then checking their IDs. The female cop stayed guarding them from behind. Two boys didn't look old enough to have passports, and I wondered what they carried instead. A group of foreigners passed, staring and smiling.

The boys didn't look poor, their bicycles didn't look cheap, so maybe they paid the cops later to get rid of them - but I didn't see them doing it. Nor did I see them being accompanied to the police department, or leaving on their own. But it wasn't a joke - the cops had more than enough authority about them, and their horses provided them with some vertical advantage: the way they towered over the poor teens reminded me of The Lord of the Rings movies, hobbits and all.

Anyway, the boys didn't look like terrorists, and wasting time on them was just that: wasting time. They and their bicycles probably presented a slightly greater potential danger to the public than a tiny woman like Masha Gessen - but you'd have to be from a place as wonderful and peaceful as Iowa City to perceive them as danger - or from any other normal city, a city where there hasn't been anything like Nord-Ost theater siege (three years and three days ago...).

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