UPDATE on April 6...
Commenters (including eyewitnesses) have shed much light - see the comments. (In particular, commenter "Bike" provided this link to what seems a well-balanced video report.) At this point, I'd say the Matier/Ross article definitely blew the incident way out of proportion. Nevertheless, there was an unpleasant confrontation, and damage was inflicted by several parties. ($5300 in damage to the van? I'm not seeing it... a couple scratches and a broken back window. And it would seem that the van driver was not the totally-innocent victim that she's playing.)
Hopefully this was an isolated incident. As a somewhat partial outside observer, I like the Critical Mass "in concept." But the participants must realize that it's a public-relations opportunity. If non-cyclists are routinely victimized, the tide of public opinion could easily turn against cyclists.
THANKS for all the thoughtful opinions.
I ran across this distressing article today.
Have you heard of "Critical Mass" rides? They take place mostly in larger cities, supposedly to assert cyclists' rights to the roadways, and to raise bicycle awareness.
San Francisco is home to one of the more prominent Critical Mass rides; it takes place once a month.
At the March Critical Mass, a surburban family was victimized. They came into town to celebrate their 11-year-old's birthday. (Mom and Dad and their five kids in the family truckster.) They unknowingly crossed paths with hundreds of rambunctious cyclists, who proceeded to terrorize them. (There's no other word for it.) The kids were terrified; their vehicle sustained $5300 in damage, including a bicycle thrown through the back window, spraying the interior with shards of glass.
The cops were summoned. They suggested that Dad write an indignant letter to the mayor. The SFPD spokesman said, "We sit there and they just go right through the red lights ... What else can we do? Arrest one rider while 500 keep going?"
That would be a start. How about driving a squad car through the intersection when the cross-light is green? It might take a few times, but even (surviving) lawless anarchists would catch on eventually. (Tough talk from Bike Nazi, huh??)
I very much resent cyclists who ignore traffic laws. They are part of the problem, NOT part of the solution. They stir up animosity and resentment on the part of other roadway users, and who needs that?
SAME ROAD - SAME RULES - SAME RIGHTS - that's my motto.
(By the way, I once participated in a Boise "Critical Mass" ride. We started at the Co-Op on Fort Street with maybe 30 riders. Our destination was an ACHD Commissioners' meeting... in Kuna! Commissioner Sherry Huber, who's never been very bike-friendly, decided to hold the meeting out on her turf. I believe about half of the starters made it all the way to Kuna, including one guy on his vintage single-speed "cruiser" bike. I was impressed! Far as I know, my friend Woody and I were the only ones who rode back home afterwards, on our bikes.)