2004-09-09 Shameful Abuse Of Power - NY Newsday

'It's a shameful abuse of power' Viewed as "arrest evidence," the City will not return 338 bikes seized until the court cases are resolved

New York Newsday
By Graham Rayman
September 9th, 2004

http://www.newsday.com/news/it-s-a-shameful-abuse-of-power-1.707217

Katherine Roberts flies home to San Francisco today minus her beloved folding bicycle.

Police arrested Roberts, 51, an alternative transportation advocate, and confiscated her $2,000 custom bike on Aug. 29, a day before the Republican National Convention opened. She is one of hundreds of detainees who still haven't gotten their bicycles back.

"It's a shameful abuse of power," said Roberts, who endured nearly 30 hours in detention after her arrest by scooter police on 37th Street. "We are all supposedly protected by the Constitution. This shows they can rewrite the rules whenever they want."

Police said yesterday they are holding 338 bicycles in a Greenpoint warehouse, which, according to Roberts, was "like they swept all the bikes off the streets."

A police spokesman said the confiscated bikes are viewed as "arrest evidence" until the court cases are resolved, which in Roberts' case means late October and another $300 air fare.

Matthew Roth of the bicycle advocacy group Times Up said the group plans to appeal to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. If that doesn't work, he said, the group will file a motion before a judge.

"The bikes would not further a case or be used in a trial," Roth said. "Holding the bikes is purely a punitive measure."

Roth said he believes the bicycles are being used as "leverage" to induce people to take an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, which dismisses charges after six months.

"If bikes were not there, a lot more people would fight the charges," he said.

Separately, a hearing is scheduled for today in the ongoing legal case over detentions during the convention.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who told people to ride their bikes during the convention, yesterday said: "There were bicyclists who tried to stop traffic in this city and stop commerce and stop people's rights to assemble and people's rights to express themselves.

"We believe we acted appropriately and that given the situation this city did what the law requires," he said.

Many cyclists disputed that characterization. "We were obeying all traffic laws," said Anne Eller, 23, a doctoral student who lost her bike on Aug. 29. "They say it's arrest evidence, but evidence of what?"

"You have a right to demonstrate," said Ryan Kuonen, 33, a comedy writer and nanny. "They were stopping people who weren't doing anything."

As for Roberts, she spent two fruitless days in the rain, trying to get to the Brooklyn warehouse. "When we finally got there, having walked 10 long blocks through a depressed section, they said they couldn't release it," she said.

Copyright 2004, Newsday, Inc.