2004-12-31 Peaceful New Year's CM - NY Newsday

Critical Mass enjoys peaceful New Year's ride


http://www.nynewsday.com/news/local/manhattan/nyc-ride0101,0,7197574.story

Newsday

December 31th, 2004

By Wil Cruz

More than 200 Critical Mass bicyclists zigzagged through Manhattan
streets Friday night, sans permits and in procession, rounding off the
latest battle between the riders and the police department.

The cyclists gathered at the north end of Union Square Friday
evening while police on motorcycles lined up on the south side.
Community affairs officers, as they had at previous Critical Mass
gatherings, handed out fliers that threatened cyclists with arrests
if they rode in procession.

"These are not criminals," said Attorney Norman Siegel, pointing
to the cyclists before they rode off. "I'm disappointed in the Police
Department."

At 7:30 p.m., the riders, screaming, whistling and saying "Happy
New Year!" headed west on 17th Street. A police vehicle blocked
traffic as some motorists honked their car horns.

In the end, the demonstration went off without incident. Police and
organizers reported no arrests.

The Critical Mass culminated a year in which the cyclists and the
city, particularly the NYPD, had numerous clashes. Leading up to the
Republican National Convention during the summer, Police Commissioner
Ray Kelly for the first time cracked down on the gathering, a fixture
in the city a decade.

Last week, a federal judge sided with the cyclist organizers and
turned down the city's push to force the riders to have permits. The
judge ordered the case transferred to State Supreme Court.

Critical Mass is the last Friday of every month.

Friday night, organizers were hoping for more cyclists. Though some
riders had gotten scared away in previous months because of arrest
threats, they said, some probably stayed away because it's winter and
the holiday.

Before leaving Union Square, cyclists accused the police of being
ambiguous about procession rules.

"They're just playing this game... and not being clear," said Jack
Horowitz, 57, a farmer and feed dealer from the South Bronx. "They're
just saying it's illegal and trying to frighten people.

"I thought we had progressed as a city," he added.

Copyright 2005, Newsday