Not a Great Photograph, but what you are seeing is a line of cops on scooters, making a left turn onto 14th Street from Fifth Avenue and heading East on 14th, towards Union Square. (Photo taken about 8:35 03-31-06)
The last Friday night of each month, a group of bicyclers gather in Union Square, and shortly after dark take off in a non-protest that the police call a protest. The size of the group changes a lot: normally I guess that there are around 250 - during the Republican convention in 2004, there were over 5,000 riders. The riders claim it is just a group of riders that happened to get together. The police want them to get permits and have a designated route.
There is no official organizer for the event, and the route is never announced. Riders gather in Union Square Park; and then they take off en masse on a route that has been pre-planned and communicated via cell. It does stop traffic and create lots of noise and confusion. The riders hope that it draws attention to the need for Transportation Alternatives. The police want control.
Tonight however the police seem to be winning - so far. The line of cops photo'd above were lying in wait a bit more than a block away from the park. It looks like the police have adopted a zone defense tonight - establishing clusters of cops at locations spread around this part of the city in the hopes or preventing the bicyclers from even gathering in the park.
So far, it appears to be working. But it's only 9:00 P.M.