2006-07-20 NYPD Pushes For New Rules - NY1

NY1 News
Molly Kroon
Jul 20, 2006

The NYPD is pushing for new rules on permits for protests and parades in response to recent court rulings that found the current rules too vague. NY1's Molly Kroon filed the following report.

During the 2004 Republican National Convention, police arrested some 230 protestors demonstrating on the sidewalk on Fulton Street. Those arrests were thrown out by the DA's office, but new regulations proposed by the NYPD would require permits for all similar protests of 35 people or more. It's got free speech advocates seething.

"These proposed regulations are a transparent effort to severely limit political protest," said Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberty Union.

The proposed restrictions wouldn't just apply to protesters, but to cyclists too. The NYPD wants to require a parade permit for bicyclists of 20 or more and for those who go riding with at least one other cyclist and disobey traffic laws.

"In times of us encouraging people to ride their bicycles together, the city is saying the exact opposite thing," said cycling advocate Bill DiPaola of Time's Up! Advocacy Group.

Some see the move as a direct attack on Critical Mass, the group bicycle ride held every month. Members of the group have accused the NYPD of seizing their bikes and obstructing their route. The two are currently locked in a court battle.

"They show the city isn't this a beautiful, positive celebration, not a demonstration, but a celebration of what our streets could look like, and it is going to affect group rides all over the city," said DiPaola.

But the NYPD says the new regulations are in response to a recent court decision that found the city's rules too vague, and they say that the department simply wanted to clarify them. In a statement, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, "the police always had the authority to make arrests, and continue to have that authority."

Critics disagree.

"When there is a need to get a permit from the police, then the police invariably try to micro-manage the demonstration and that's not good for free speech," said Lieberman.

The NYCLU says it plans to call on the city council to step in if the NYPD moves forward with the new rules. New Yorkers will get an opportunity to comment on the regulations at a public forum being held at police headquarters later next month.