Mendez Bill Would Overturn NYPD Parade Rules

A cyclist is ticketed during Critical Mass last spring

City Council Member Rosie Mendez has introduced a bill to overturn the NYPD’s parade permit rules, which require groups of over 50 to obtain a permit before assembling. Enacted a year ago, the rules were seen as a way for the city to subvert Critical Mass rides and have been the subject of civil rights action and at least one lawsuit.

Mendez, along with Alan Gerson and Gale Brewer, were to introduce the "First Amendment Assembly Act" yesterday. According to a media release, the bill [PDF] "decriminalizes parading without a permit and allows groups that need exceptions to various laws, such as traffic laws, to obtain such for their events."

Streetsblog has posted consistently on how the NYPD seems more intent on harassing cyclists than protecting them. And just last week Commissioner Ray Kelly got an earful from citizens who are fed up with unsafe conditions for cyclists and pedestrians.

The full press release from Mendez follows the jump.


Wednesday March 26th 2008

At today’s Stated City Council meeting, Council Member Rosie Mendez
(District 2, Manhattan), along with Council Members Alan Gerson and Gale
Brewer, will introduce a bill to balance the NYPD’s duty to ensure
public safety with citizens’ right to free assembly. If enacted into
law, the bill will override the parade permit rules adopted by the NYPD
a year ago which were created without City Council oversight and require
any group of 50 or more to obtain a permit. Currently, anyone in such a
group without a permit is subject to arrest.

A copy of the legislation being introduced can be downloaded from the
Assemble For Rights NYC website:

"Groups wishing to assemble and stay within the limits of the law should
not be required to obtain a permit; the First Amendment is our permit"
stated Council Member Mendez. "Larger assemblies that want the police to

assist in managing traffic along their route and ensure security should
be able to apply for a permit through a fair and transparent process.
This bill sets forth clear guidelines for each instance."

The First Amendment Assembly Act, based on legislation drafted by the
civil rights advocacy group Assemble For Rights NYC, decriminalizes
parading without a permit and allows groups that need exceptions to
various laws, such as traffic laws, to obtain such for their events.

A parade permit will not be required when:

* A group believes their proposed assembly will not prevent other lawful
uses of the same city public space and the expected attendance of the
assembly will be less than 100, or

* The assembly is an immediate and spontaneous response to an event.

The Act also sets forth guidelines for the NYPD to facilitate peaceful
assemblies even when a group should have obtained a permit but did not.
Furthermore, the Act also encourages calmer resolutions to assemblies
which become too difficult for the NYPD to facilitate: these guidelines
include providing clearly communicated dispersal orders and reasonable
opportunities to disperse before making any arrests.

The Act is similar to rules which were created to govern assemblies in
Washington D.C. in the wake of mass arrests that eventually cost D.C.
millions in civil penalties. D.C.’s laws have successfully reduced
tensions between police and citizens there, and significantly reduced
that city’s legal liability to wrongful arrest civil suits, while
ensuring public safety.

Assemble For Rights NYC (, is a
coalition of over two dozen organizations dedicated to keeping free
speech alive and well in New York City.

Photo: Doug Letterman/Flickr

  • Jacob

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble AS LONG AS THE ASSEMBLED GROUP IS LESS THAN 100 PERSONS OR OBTAINS A GOVERNMENT-ISSUED PERMIT FIRST, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  • ddartley

    Big praise for Mendez, Gerson, and Brewer.

    But remember, this is long overdue. To anyone who at all values civil liberties, it was always clear that the NYPD’s rules were illegitimate, and *the City Council was obligated to step in and clarify them* (and, separately, relax them from the NYPD’s draconian rules–which were, yes, still draconian even after the revision NYPD made to them some months before–a revision designed to give the appearance of relaxing the rules, but that actually broadened the scope of people who could be arrested.)

    Another thing–don’t anyone forget that Quinn and defended the NYPD’s version.

  • ddartley

    Typo- I meant to say “Quinn supported and defended the NYPD’s version.”

  • Jacob: read the legislation! the 100 number is moot, parading without a permit is decriminalized. There is no clause in the document that gives the police any authority to act on a group if it is over 100 and does not have a permit. In fact it has a clause that says Police may not disperse groups just because they do not have a permit.

  • Pat

    that’s not the NYPD, but the fashion police. he’s wearing a tank top that is only sanctioned for members of the Hungarian Circus.

  • Heff

    What do you mean? That tank top is FABULOUS!!!!

  • sept 07 same story, the end is the best nypd van parked in bike lane while they are ticketing bicyclist on the same block for not riding in bike lane

  • i was trying to link this video from sept 07

  • Be

    This is excellent clarification of the law and is vast improvement of the NYPD rules. However, there will still be a crack down on Critical Mass because the new legilation allows summons, arrests and dispersals if the protest, etc… interferes with other legal uses of public space and/or traffic. Basically, there will still have to be either court cases or a clarification of New York City and Stare laws on to what extent it is true when we bikes say “We’re not blocking traffic, we are traffic.”


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