Kevin L. Hoover
G STREET – What started as a wrong-way bicycle ticket Thursday, Aug. 2 fell short of becoming an international incident, but did briefly flare as yet another culture war tribal clash.
Around 6:30 a.m. that morning, an Arcata Police officer attempted to stop four bicyclists riding the wrong way down one-way G Street in the 900 block just north of the Plaza. One of the cyclists rode off; three stopped. Two provided identification and were cited for wrong-way riding, an infraction. The woman later identified as Anna Malgorzata Karewicz, refused to provide identification according to APD Lt. Ryan Peterson.
She was arrested on a charge of providing false information to an officer, a misdemeanor, and taken to Humboldt County Jail.
Karewicz, a Polish citizen, turned out to be in the U.S. illegally, her student visa having expired. She was placed on an immigration hold by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
A group called “Friends of Ankah” quickly cropped up on indybay.org, a website that “support[s] local, regional and global struggles against exploitation and oppression.”
The Friends described Karewicz as “a puppeteer and artist, as well as an “avid community gardener” and “a hardworking and dedicated community member” who volunteers her time with a bicycle collective.
The support group questioned APD’s authority to arrest citizens for immigration violations and demanded her release. Protests at the Humboldt County Courthouse were planned, and community supporters enlisted.
One was Pastor Cindy Storrs of the Arcata United Methodist Church. She explained that AUMC is a “connectional” church with what she described as “a built-in expectation that clergy have respect for other ministries.”
So when she took a call from a clergywoman in Chicago asking that she look into Karewicz’s situation, she did. “I’m somewhat interested as a pastor in the Arcata community on issues of immigration,” she said.
Storrs visited Karewicz in jail as the Friends group – reportedly associated with Earth First! – rallied their forces for protests outside the courthouse.
But as the fervor ramped up, it was defused when Karewicz was released on Tuesday, Aug. 7.
It’s not over, though. A court hearing was scheduled for Monday, Aug. 13, as the Eye went to press.
Peterson said that APD officers don’t act as ICE agents, but have to ascertain the identities of those they stop for infractions. If false information is offered, it becomes something more serious.
“We don’t deal with immigration status,” Peterson said. “That’s not our focus.”
Bad bicycling, though, is very much APD’s focus. Driving against traffic, he said, is “dangerous for bicyclists and confusing for motorists.”