Help Put an End to Parade Rules and Police Tactics That Target Cyclists

critical_mass_arrests.jpgLast Friday’s assault on a Critical Mass rider — and the attempted cover-up that followed — has heightened public attention on police misconduct against cyclists. If you, or some other cyclist you know, have been the subject of selective enforcement or inappropriate police action, lawyers from the Five Borough Bike Club would like to hear your story. They can be reached at [lawsuitinfo] [at] [5BBC] [dot] [org], and their deadline is Friday, August 8. Here are the details:

Time is running out. The Five Borough Bike Club and several others are plaintiffs in a lawsuit which challenges New York City’s attempts to suppress Critical Mass rides. The Court has given us an August 8 deadline to gather information concerning summonses, arrests and other NYPD action against bicyclists. For those of you who don’t know, the suit challenges the constitutionality of recently implemented rules that require a group of 50 or more to obtain an NYPD permit before proceeding together (the "Parade Permit Rules"). The suit also challenges various other tactics that NYPD uses to target and suppress Critical Mass rides. Details on how to provide information you believe may be helpful are provided at the end of this post.

So far, we have already gathered evidence of unlawful conduct by the NYPD, including evidence which shows that:

  • NYPD "profiles" suspected Critical Mass participants for selective enforcement of the law as they ride their bikes individually in the vicinity of Union Square prior to the start of the ride, as shown in this video.
  • NYPD tickets cyclists during these "profiling" operations and points to them as proof of Critical Mass’s lawlessness, even when the summonses were issued on evenings when no Critical Mass ride took place and/or for violations which are not relevant to bicyclists, such as "no seatbelt" [download a summary of these tactics].
  • NYPD has systematically arrested and summonsed Critical Mass participants without any valid basis. The charges frequently have been dismissed.
  • NYPD officers have repeatedly used excessive and dangerous force against Critical Mass participants.

As one NYPD officer candidly told a Critical Mass bicyclist while ticketing him for an equipment violation, the policy of selective and unlawful enforcement was triggered by the August 2004 Critical Mass bicyclists’ protests against the Republican National Convention. We contend that such protest activities provide no lawful reasons to establish the 50-person limit on public processions, or to suppress or selectively enforce the law against Critical Mass month after month [download].

The Court requires us to collect all relevant documents, photographs and videotape by August 8, 2008. If you believe you have evidence that is relevant to the suit, we ask that you send it to us.

This is not an offer to provide individuals with lawyers or legal representation. We request that you voluntarily provide information for use as evidence in the lawsuit. If you can help, please send us a brief email describing the information you have, and including a daytime phone number where you can be reached and/or an email address, to: [lawsuitinfo] [at] [5BBC] [dot] [org]. Please contact us about the lawsuit only through this email address.

Thanks so much for your help and support.

Best regards,
5BBC

  • Why do they even need people? Doesn’t the permit process violate the Freedom of Assembly guaranteed by the U.S. Bill of Rights? I honestly don’t know, perhaps the SCOTUS has issued a ruling on this, but it seems unconstitutional to me.

  • Ian Turner

    The ‘no seatbelt’ violation was issued to an NJ motorist, by the way.

  • Nathan

    I always thought that Critical Mass could avoid that restriction *and be more effective* by sending groups of 30 to 40 cyclists off to different parts of the city as soon as enough people amassed, thus always keeping the number under 50. And if the goal of the system is to increase motorists’ exposure to bikes, I think this would do more. Instead of getting people along one route seeing an enormous collection of bikes, you would get 5 – 10 times as many people seeing a sizable force of bikes.

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