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  1. #1
    militant commuter
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    NYC Critical Mass Jan '05, Charges Dismissed.

    The big 2 out of the 3 anyway. FreeWheels Press Release below:


    [QUOTE]“JUDGE FINDS NYC PARADE PERMIT LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL:
    “CRITICAL MASS” BIKERS’ CHARGES DISMISSED


    Yesterday, New York City Criminal Court Judge Gerald Harris decided that the City’s parade permit law is “hopelessly overbroad” and “‘constitutes a burden on free expression that is more than the First Amendment can bear.’”

    Judge Harris’s written Verdict in People v. Bezjak, et al. dismissed the parading without a permit charges against all of the 8 people who were arrested on the night of the January 2005 Critical Mass bicycle ride, but held each guilty of disorderly conduct, a verdict the cyclists may consider appealing.

    “The City has arrested and prosecuted over 2,000 people since August of 2004 for violating a law this Decision clearly finds unconstitutional on its face,” said Gideon Oliver, the cyclists’ attorney. Oliver “challenged the City to reconsider its aggressive stance toward policing First Amendment activities in general, and Critical Mass bicycle rides in particular” in light of the 17-page Verdict.

    According to Bruce Bentley of the National Lawyers Guild, the vast majority of the 1,806 Republican National Convention arrests resulted in parading without a permit prosecutions. Since the RNC, the City has arrested almost 350 bicyclists for parading without a permit, and sought injunctions in State and Federal Courts that would subject participants in future Critical Mass rides to criminal penalties of up to a year in jail.

    Yesterday’s Verdict offered several examples of events that appear to require a permit under the law as written in order “to highlight the virtually unfettered discretion reposed in the Police Commissioner to determine when any particular event may be found to fall within the amorphous definition of parade or procession and, thus, requires a permit.”

    According to the Verdict, “a person promenading, or two persons racing, . . . a funeral procession, two or three cars displaying political posters traveling one behind the other, caravan style, or a small group of friends biking together” might be required to obtain permits under the law as written.

    The Verdict also found the permit law is unconstitutional because even a person who “unknowingly participates in a permitless march may be arrested, fined or imprisoned. Thus, bystanders or onlookers, stirred by the passion evoked by a political march, join in at their peril.”

    “While some Decisions from the Criminal Court over the course of the past year have upheld the constitutionality of the permit requirement,” said Oliver, “this Verdict is the first to result from a full trial, at which the Court heard 3 days’ worth of testimony from 11 NYPD Officers which it said ‘highlighted deficiencies in the City’s parade permit scheme.’”

    Dave Rankin, a FreeWheels Board member who assisted during the trial, said that the 8 defendants were “pleased with the vindication of their First Amendment rights.” However, Rankin noted that the trials of about 30 bicyclists arrested for “parading without a permit” in February, March, April, May, June, and July of 2005 are all currently scheduled to begin later this month, and said it was “unclear whether the District Attorney’s Office would consider declining to prosecute the parading without a permit charges in those cases in light of the Court’s ruling.”

    Recognizing that neither the City nor other Judges are technically bound by this Decision, Oliver said he is nevertheless “hopeful that others will be convinced by Judge Harris’s careful consideration of the 600-plus page record in these cases and the Verdict’s logical application of well-settled United States Supreme Court precedents.”

    According to the Verdict, “there was testimony [at trial] that the practice of the Police Department is in a state of flux – while Critical Mass rides have been occurring for years, only recently have the police made arrests for proceeding without a permit.”

    Some of the practices the NYPD has deployed in policing Critical Mass bicycle rides since August of 2004 have drawn wide criticism. A December 22, 2005 New York Times article by Jim Dwyer recently led attorneys in the Handschu lawsuit to take steps that could ultimately lead to contempt proceedings against the City in Federal Court for spying on peaceful protesters – including participants in Critical Mass rides – in violation of Court-approved guidelines binding on the City.

    A copy of the January 9, 2006 Decision in People v. Bezjak is available online at: http://www.oliverandoliverlaw.com/ORAM.pdf.

    FreeWheels (www.bicycledefensefund.org) is a volunteer-run, non-profit advocacy group started by bicyclists who have ridden in and been arrested at Critical Mass. We are dedicated to providing the resources necessary to fight New York City's attack on the civil rights of bicyclists and assisting those arrested, ticketed, or harassed for bicycling. We raise money for arrestees' legal expenses, and provide arrestees with resources, information and support in defending their Constitutional Rights. FreeWheels believes the NYPD's crackdown on the Critical Mass ride is an assault not only on the rights of bicyclists, but on the Constitution itself. FreeWheels is not financially associated with Critical Mass. Nor are we spokespeople for Critical Mass, which is a leaderless gathering of bicyclists. Critical Mass rides take place in many cities around the world on the last Friday of every month.

  2. #2
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    right on.

  3. #3
    NoPo nateted4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laika
    right on.
    +1
    Saddle Stitching is like Razorblades for Your Crotch.

  4. #4
    Bent_Rider
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    Hip, Hip, Hooray

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    This is a huge win for Critical Mass. I thought the movement was dead and now made illegal but it goes to show you the militant actions by the police stepped over the line.

  6. #6
    contrarian lala's Avatar
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    !yay!
    Higher ground for the apocalypse!

  7. #7
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    This is a huge win for Critical Mass. I thought the movement was dead and now made illegal but it goes to show you the militant actions by the police stepped over the line.
    Actually, the court ruled that the law was too vague. It did not rule that the police applied it incorrectly. The key point was that the law did not stipulate what minimum size gathering requires a permit. The example of valid permit law the court referenced would have required CM to get a permit if it had been NYC law.

    The law could easily be remedied, if the city government wishes by simply adding a minimum group size (the court mentioned 50) to require a permit. This, of course, would require action by the city, so CM advocates have another front to protect.

  8. #8
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    I think this is a win for all cyclists who travel in groups, not just Critical Mass.

    What I find particularly encouraging is the following:

    The Verdict also found the permit law is unconstitutional because even a person who “unknowingly participates in a permitless march may be arrested, fined or imprisoned. Thus, bystanders or onlookers, stirred by the passion evoked by a political march, join in at their peril.”
    By this reasoning, successful prosecution of any individual participant for parading without a permit would require proof that the individual knew that the parade lacked a permit. Not an easy thing to prove, especially since one would have difficulty proving the individual was actually "parading" at all instead of coincidentally traveling on the same road at the same time.

    It seems to me that the only valid way to prosecute any parade permit violation would be to charge only the person or organization that organized a parade larger than a certain size, and to make the case that the way the activity was organized and conducted constituted a parade rather than just lawful travel or assembly.

  9. #9
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    After reading the entire ruling, I am quite concerned about the following part:

    The Charge of Obstructing Vehicular and Pedestrian Traffic (PL 240.20(5))...Bicycles are vehicles entitled to the use of the public roads. However, from a practical perspective, they differ in important respects from motorized vehicles. They generally move at a slower speed than cars, and bicyclists are more vulnerable to injury. These distinctions are recognized in the traffic rules that provide special lanes for bicycles and, in the absence of such lanes, require that they travel at the margins of the highway. These regulations serve the dual purpose of affording bicyclists a measure of protection at the same time that they structure a traffic flow less likely to be impeded by slower moving vehicles.
    ...
    Here, the evidence established, beyond a reasonable doubt, that each of the eight defendants were participants in a group of at least fifty bicyclists and, as part of that group, rode their bikes in a manner which obstructed the flow of vehicular traffic. Accordingly, each of the defendants is found guilty of violating Penal Law Section 240.20(5).
    So in other words, the judge has decided that cyclists can be ticketed for slowing down traffic. This has serious implications for any group of cyclists.

    -Steve Goodridge

  10. #10
    Senior Member DIVA's Avatar
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    Transportation Alternatives is now contemplating a law suit against
    the NYPD (NYC's biggest bike theft ring) building on the 2004 Pauley
    Federal district court decision in our favor. From Noah Budnick:


    Subject: clipped bikes & bike lane liberation
    Date: Wed, 11 Jan 2006 15:02:16 -0500
    From: "Noah Budnick" <noah@transalt.org


    Please send out the word that T.A. is looking for people whose
    bikes were clipped by the NYPD over the fall of 2005 or more recently.


    We are compiling affidavits to use in a lawsuit to stop the NYPD from
    clipping parked bikes.

    Cheers,
    Noah

    noah@transalt.org

  11. #11
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri
    ASo in other words, the judge has decided that cyclists can be ticketed for slowing down traffic. This has serious implications for any group of cyclists.
    I disagree. A person can be successfully prosecuted for obstructing traffic whether he is a cyclist, pedestrian, or motorist if he acts with the intent of impeding the flow of traffic.

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