Community Spoke Has Almost Everything Stolen

Written by Boston Biker on Nov 14

BostoInno  reports:

A Jamaica Plain-based volunteer bike co-op that helps Boston-area cyclists fix their rides for free has been shut down “indefinitely” after someone allegedly stole an abundance of equipment from the shop.

The Community Spoke, which provides bicycle repair services, instruction, bike parts, and reconditioned bikes for free to the Greater Boston area, announced on November 14 that “due to a break-in and burglary at our shop, the Spoke will be closed.”

“Tools, parts, and bikes were stolen,” according to the company’s website.  “It’s very sad to have to close under these circumstances.”

Someone took a photo of where the tools used to fix bikes were once hanging in the community work space and wrote, “[we are] now closed, effective immediately…due to selfish, greedy cowards.”

The Community Spoke’s Facebook page says:

Hey everyone,

Thanks so much for a great season! This has been our best season yet and we’re all happy and proud to have been able to do what we’ve done. However, due to a break-in and burglary at our shop, the Spoke will be closed indefinitely.

Tools, parts, and bikes were stolen. Please keep an eye out for a brown/copper colored ANT cycle truck (picture below) with a 20″ front wheel and a very
large front basket and an older steel metallic turquoise Miyata mountain bike with an Xtracycle conversion kit. These are very recognizable bikes, and we use them to transport our tools and mobile workshop supplies to do free bike repair away from the shop. If you have heard anything about our tools or bikes, please email us at [email protected] or call Alex at (910) 547-4843 or Dora at (516) 658-4224.

It’s very sad to have to close under these circumstances, but we will make every effort to reopen next season. Thanks again, y’all have been great.

The Community Spoke would like to make it clear that we are not involving the police in this matter, and we would like for you to do the same for the sake of the community, and for the house attached to the shop. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact us. Do not contact the police. If you are questioned, please do not give them any information.

which sounds a little strange to me…but either way this is horrible. If you see those bikes contact them at the number/email above.

The Community Spoke has clarified their decision not to involve the police here:

Since our break-in was noticed on Tuesday, we’ve received more publicity and attention than we have in our entire two years of operation. This is both heartwarming and troubling. While we appreciate everyone’s generosity in reaching out, and we’re glad to have your support, we’re disappointed that it’s a negative event that has brought The Community Spoke! to the attention of the greater public.

I have personally turned down two television interviews in as many days and we’ve been mentioned in numerous blogs and online media sources. It’s becoming hard to distinguish between genuine concern and sensationalism in the responses to the break-in at our space. One question that has been asked by those concerned as well as those wishing to capitalize on our loss is “why have you chosen not to involve the police?”

The simple answer is that involving the police is at odds with our established points of unity. We have written and agreed that “we seek to challenge the root causes of social and environmental injustice by creating community-based alternatives and fostering a spirit of mutual aid” and that “our community workshop and mobile repair stations are safe spaces free from oppression, violence and weapons.” The police are an organization that doles out oppression and violence and we as a community can do better.

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22 Responses to “Community Spoke Has Almost Everything Stolen”

  1. By Erik on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    “The Community Spoke would like to make it clear that we are not involving the police in this matter…If you are questioned, please do not give them any information.”

    Um, that’s more than a little strange. It’s really, really, really weird.

  2. By Fenway on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    “The Community Spoke would like to make it clear that we are not involving the police in this matter…If you are questioned, please do not give them any information.”

    This leads me to believe they know the party or parties responsible for stealing their stuff.

  3. By Alex on Nov 15, 2012 | Reply

    It’s a shame that our first instinct in times of loss is to contact the police. Please refer to The Community Spoke!’s website for more information regarding our choice on police involvement.

  4. By William Furr on Nov 15, 2012 | Reply

    “We do not want to fracture the relationships we’ve built through suspicion, aggression, racism, and all the other things the police stand for. The concept of true justice extends far beyond the realm of law.”

    While I would prefer to believe that the police are here to serve and protect all of us, not just the privileged few, I can understand why the reality of police actions might make someone feel this way.

    Even our current police are an improvement over the historical alternatives, though. Prior to community-funded (i.e. taxes) police departments, your choices for justice were vigilantism or the local feudal baron.

    Seems to me rather than rejecting the police entirely, it would be better to reform them and address our society’s structural inequalities.

  5. By Rupert on Nov 15, 2012 | Reply

    I’ve tweeted this story to @Boston_Police. We’ll see what happens.

  6. By Fenway on Nov 15, 2012 | Reply

    “It’s a shame that our first instinct in times of loss is to contact the police”

    It is common sense to everyone not pretending to live in an ideological fantasyland that there are due legal processes to be followed as a victim. At minimum for insurance purposes and assure those donating time, tools, or appearing at the CO-OP feel that their donations and personal safety is not going to be sacrificed over ideology.

    Do you really think people are going to want to visit a CO-OP were, despite designation as a safe space, if anything happens the police are not to be involved? Do you really think people are going to continue to donate tools and parts to a place, which does not follow any standard legal procedure to deal with theft?

    This is no different from a fraternal or religious organization refusing to report crimes and encouraging their membership to not cooperate with authorities. It is a very bad precedent to be set by a group, which is attempting to be a transparent community organization.

    Please reconsider filing a report with BPD. You do not have to answer questions about who works or attends the CO-OP if that is what you are worried about. On the other hand, if you know the party or parties responsible, you can always get your stuff back and decline to press charges beyond seeking community service.

  7. By Wandering_Woman_On_Wheels on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    Well I always thought that police were PART of a community, and working with them as possible is not necessarily a bad thin. Although from personal experience, my observation is that the police primarily pursue crimes where someone’s life is in danger rather than waste time on the many, many burglaries and thefts that occur in Boston. This is probably why there are so many crimes of this nature…they get away with it. Bike theft is HUGE in Boston. Luckily, in the 2nd burglary I endured (technically a home invasion, since we were in the house when they broke in), I did not get ripped off (but my roommates did), nor was my bike stolen, since it was well-locked indoors. At my prior residence, I was out on my bike when the house was broken into, but I lost jewelry and oddly, clothing!

    Anyway, here is an updated explanation I found on their blog:

    A note on police involvement
    Published November 15, 2012 | By Alex
    http://thecommunityspoke.org/?p=148

    “Since our break-in was noticed on Tuesday, we’ve received more publicity and attention than we have in our entire two years of operation. This is both heartwarming and troubling. While we appreciate everyone’s generosity in reaching out, and we’re glad to have your support, we’re disappointed that it’s a negative event that has brought The Community Spoke! to the attention of the greater public.

    I have personally turned down two television interviews in as many days and we’ve been mentioned in numerous blogs and online media sources. It’s becoming hard to distinguish between genuine concern and sensationalism in the responses to the break-in at our space. One question that has been asked by those concerned as well as those wishing to capitalize on our loss is “why have you chosen not to involve the police?”

    The simple answer is that involving the police is at odds with our established points of unity. We have written and agreed that “we seek to challenge the root causes of social and environmental injustice by creating community-based alternatives and fostering a spirit of mutual aid” and that “our community workshop and mobile repair stations are safe spaces free from oppression, violence and weapons.” The police are an organization that doles out oppression and violence and we as a community can do better.

    There are reasons that we have chosen to exclude the police from the Spoke that are deeper and more complex. We have done a radical thing by offering a free service. Many have told us that it’s unsustainable and unreasonable to do what we have done. We’ve never tried to adhere to social norms in our work but we’ve been able to help our constituency in some dramatic ways, and they have helped us grow. This is fostering a spirit of mutual aid. We’ve done this as a community and have never looked for outside help. We all can rebuild The Community Spoke! as a community without the police. We feel that the police will interfere with our mission to provide a free and important service to those who decide to use it. To us this is more important than recovering our stolen property or “bringing those responsible to justice.”

    What service can the police provide? Do we actually want the police to target, question, and harass the youth of color of Jamaica Plain on behalf of the Spoke? Would that really help us build a community? Is punishing the people responsible what we want? Is TCS! still a safer space if there is a police presence? Questions like these must be asked when dealing with an event where a crime has been committed. It is, of course, a visceral reaction to call the police, but this could have dire consequences for the folks we serve. We’ve been taught to think that someone who chooses not to deal with the police is guilty of a crime or is hiding something. We need to shed this kind of thinking and understand that communities belong to the people that exist within them. We do not want to fracture the relationships we’ve built through suspicion, aggression, racism, and all the other things the police stand for. The concept of true justice extends far beyond the realm of law.

    I feel confident that our stolen bikes will turn up eventually, and if they don’t we will find new ones. Our place within our community is not so easily secured. If you would like to help us begin a new chapter we will gladly accept your help and ideas, but please respect our wishes as far as dealing with the police.

    We don’t often make political statements and we strive to welcome all regardless of ideology. I understand that not all share our views. We are genuinely grateful for everything that the spoke has become and everyone that has helped us along the way.

    I would like to address some of the rumors that have circulated the internet. If you are a media source and have reported incorrectly, please make these corrections.
    -We were not victims of robbery, we were victims of burglary. There is a very big distinction between these two terms.
    -Most of our tools were not stolen. We moved all remaining tools and parts to storage. Photographs of our toolboard empty were taken after our move to illustrate our frustration with having to close and our shop being empty.

    We have heard from many people that are angry with the thieves. We ask that if our bikes are seen that you please not respond with violence.

    Thanks again,

    -Alex and TCS!”

  8. By Jake on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    Hey Rupert, cool snitching bro!

  9. By Jane on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    I love this. The stuff stolen were bikes worth much more in love than dollars. When kids steal tall bikes it’s for a joy ride. The Spoke is doing the grownup thing and letting the kids get their kicks in, and trusting that the love and time and energy they’ve given their community will be paid back when some kids get it out of their system and return their stuff. It takes a lot to turn the other cheek, but in this case it is a really beautiful example of continuing to put out energy and being ok if it isn’t returned.

  10. By Jake on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    I think you are missing the point. You are suggesting that justice should be colorblind. OK, great, but its not. We live in a racist culture and have a racist legal system. The BPD have shown themselves to be a racist organization again and again. The recent exposition of explicit racism in the BPD Union newsletter (by the Phoenix earlier this year) is only one small example on a much larger pile of evidence to this point

    I speak as a white person and a person who lives at the house that the Spoke is run out of, but as someone not directly involved with the Spoke. We recognize that the police will take our complaints more seriously because we are white, and that they may very well use it as an opportunity to harass and detain youth of color, who are painted as inherently criminal by our white supremacist culture. We are not interested in this.

    I also speak as a prison abolitionist, knowing that others at my house and in the Spoke are too. We are interested in potentially holding community meetings, looking at restorative justice examples that have worked in other places, and talking to our friends and neighbors about how to move forward with this outside the logic of the racist and extremely inefficient criminal injustice system. We know that punishment and imprisonment don’t work and are fundamentally unjust and we want to create alternatives. If you aren’t on board with that, and you want to retract your cherished sympathy, good riddance.

  11. By Jake on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    Woops, the above is a repost of a response I made on the patch! I didn’t mean to post it without that disclaimer!

  12. By Jake on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    And Jane, heck yeah!

  13. By Tommy D on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    Aww, get over yourselves, whiners. They’re choosing to take a lowkey approach and keep their free bike repair space open and welcoming. The cops in JP are not welcoming to (and often actively target!) a lot of kids, and especially the kids of color who are the main people who go to the Spoke. Good for them for deciding they’d rather take a temporary hit than bring in police and destroy the work they’re trying to do.

  14. By anonymous on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    Hey Jake, cool thinking snitching = social justice or is acceptable. It’s massively ignorant.

    “No snitching” culture is a tool used by gangs and other criminals to exploit the communities they prey upon, and it’s one of the greatest challenges minority community leaders face in reducing violence in their communities.

    If you believe the police are engaging in racial profiling, the solution is not to tell everyone to clam up and provide the police with LESS information. MORE information means the police have LESS excuse to racially profile.

  15. By Jake on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    Hey anon,

    Your first sentence makes no sense. I think I understand what you are TRYING to say, but your entire argument is so all over the place its hard to know…

    “Stop snitching” is a culture that has been utilized by communities faced with constant police repression who recognize that they are better off dealing with their own problems as a community than going to the cops. Only a person with no experience of that reality could believe such an absurdity. The police ARE THE GANG that exploits communities of color. They are the gang responsible for protecting white supremacy and inequality that leads to the necessity of all other gangs. Stop snitching is and has been the realization of this reality and attempt to take community power back to the community.

    The logic on your final paragraph is so fucking bizarre that I don’t even feel like I can respond to it…

    Anyway it was a good try. Unfortunately having tons of privilege and absolutely no analysis doesn’t make for a good argument…

  16. By anonymous on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    Thank heavens the minority communities have you to decide what’s best for them and be their voice. It’s not like they don’t have leaders, who are part of their community, to speak for them. Like the Ten Point Coalition. What could a bunch of black ministers possibly know about crime, their communities, cycles of violence, etc.

    And what are those leaders doing? Asking for police involvement, local and federal – and pleading with people to report crimes and be willing to testify as witnesses.

    “Dealing with their own problems as a community than going to the cops” has a name, and it’s vigilantism. Vigilantism generates a never-ending cycle of violence which often results in the deaths of completely innocent people who are targeted out of mistaken identity, retribution, or are simply innocent bystanders.

    Stop spewing what you and your fresh-off-the-boat-to-JP, know-it-all, overeducated, trustafarian friends tell each other at your bohemian houseparties. Start listening to the community leaders who have been working on these issues since before you were born. Start listening to things like research conducted by minority youth, in their own communities.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Snitchin%27#The_Snitching_Project

  17. By foodwall4ever on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    I feel that Anon is missing two points:
    1) The Community Spoke is the effort of a lot of like-minded people, absolutely NONE of whom are vocally opposed to the way TCS is handling this recent break-in.

    2) “Victims” are not legally obliged to report anything to the police, in regards to your first post. The police are (normally assumed to be) a means of retribution or seeking justice for crimes committed. They are not the only “solution” nor are they remotely close to being the best solution. True, they are part of the community, but so are the individuals who broke into the Spoke. Apprehension, incarceration, and imprisonment of these community members are not in the interest of TCS nor its organizers or volunteers. In fact, if these people were to return the items taken from the spoke, they would most likely be offered the same services as anyone else.

    3) TCS is a small part of a larger community that occupies the same building. The Spoke is firmly dedicated to maintaining a safer space for the volunteers and patrons of the spoke, as well as for the larger community it exists within. There are people who do not feel safe within the presence of the police, as they may have been assaulted or intimidated by the police in the past, or are the type of people who are consistently targeted for police oppression. TCS honors the reality that the experience of police presence (even if only to investigate the spoke) makes a space feel unsafe, and has acted in a way to maintain their goal in cultivating a safer space. TCS does not consider a few hundred dollars worth of items worth creating a hostile space.

  18. By STEPHANIE PERSHINGA on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    Anon, you’re choosing to speak to one coalition who has decided that police involvement is helpful to them. There are scores more which have vehemently stated otherwise. Our collective analysis behooves us to be politically swayed towards the latter. Also, you have just rendered invisible the folks of color in our community, and radical folks of color all over the place. Why?

  19. By foodwall4ever on Nov 16, 2012 | Reply

    In response to the allegation of “vigilantism:”

    Nobody involved with, or otherwise connected to TCS is asking for “street justice” or “vigilante-type” behavior. Everything missing from TCS is replaceable using the same means with which they were acquired: donations of used tools, parts, and bikes, as well as a very modest amount of donated money from TCS patrons and volunteers.

    In regards to stolen bikes-they are a low-priority crime for the police. I’ve heard from people who have had bikes stolen in Boston and Cambridge that the persons assigned to the case have outspokenly encouraged them to “take it into their own hands” or that doing so “would do them a favor” (honestly!).

    We should also recognize that the people who broke into the Spoke were likely shitty bike kids who have been to open shop nights in the past to scout it out and rented a van out of Allston for the break-in. What TCS is trying to avoid is the police harassment of people of color in the JP area when it was likely not them who committed it.

  20. By Jake on Nov 17, 2012 | Reply

    Anon,

    Lots of people organize with other like-minded folks and use all sorts of different strategies and apply different analysis based on their experience. Race, nor any other identity, can be applied as a homogenous politic and it is fucked up and tokenizing for you to use it in such an opportunistic way. Many groups work or don’t work with the police, many community leaders make different decisions about this. Antonio, who created the whole “stop snitching” controversy years back is an anti-eviction organizer with CLVU in JP, while others doing similar work like 4-corner neighborhood assembly have welcomed the police or viewed them to some degree as part of the community. Its a conversation worth having and one that people in a community are entitled to have without shame, no matter what side they are on.

    We are not contacting police because we believe they will use the opportunity to target youth of color in our neighborhood the way we have all seen them do all summer. We are not part of the community which we believe the police will enter if we talk to them and therefore believe we should not invite police in. It is well documented that they disproportionately target youth of color and have proven IN THEIR OWN WORDS (see BPD Union Paper) that they have explicitly racist attitudes. The Community Spoke made a choice as a group, we back it as a house. To me this seems pretty reasonable.

    As for the played-out “trustafarian hipster” rhetoric, save it for the yelp reviews, loser.

  21. By Jake on Nov 17, 2012 | Reply

    Lol also I like that your example of data collected “by the community” was a notoriously white-led intervention project though up by the Fox Rothschild Center for Law and Society, a well-funded non-profit mostly staffed by middle-class white folks. But hey, at least you aren’t out of touch!

  22. By Jake on Nov 17, 2012 | Reply

    A short list of but a few reminders of the reality of police, criminal injustice and race in the US:

    1. There are more Black people in prison right now than we enslaved in 1850 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/12/michelle-alexander-more-black-men-in-prison-slaves-1850_n_1007368.html).
    2. In 2011, NY Police stopped and frisked Black men without reason more times than there are Black men in NYC, or that some were caught on top calling the people they were frisking “mutts” and “animals” and threatening to plant evidence on them (http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/05/10/481589/nypd-stop-and-frisk-young-black-men/).
    3. In the US Police killed a Black person EVERY FORTY HOURS (http://www.blackyouthproject.com/2012/07/every-40-hours-a-black-person-is-killed-by-the-police/).
    4. The Boston Police Union published an explicitly racist newsletter for years until exposed (http://truth-out.org/news/item/10829).

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