2004-11-27 Bicycle Protest Results in 17 Arrests – NY Times

Bicycle Protest Results in 17 Arrests
The New York Times
November 27, 2004


Seventeen cyclists in the monthly Critical Mass protest ride through Manhattan were arrested last night on charges of disorderly conduct and parading without a permit, the police said. A lawyer for the group accused the police of overzealous enforcement.

”The police, in effect, took the law into their own hands,” said Norman Siegel, the lawyer.

The group has been staging mass bicycle rides on the last Friday evening of each month to advocate nonpolluting forms of transportation. The police and city officials maintain that the riders need a permit and that they deliberately disrupt traffic. The dispute is being argued before a federal judge.

The ride last night was smaller than others in recent months, with about 300 cyclists participating, and the number of arrests was lower. But the police, who approached the riders where they gathered in Union Square, appeared to be staking out a more rigid legal position on the monthly ride in a flier they distributed to the group.

Instead of warning the riders not to violate traffic laws, the flier informed them that they would be arrested simply for riding ”in a procession,” since no city permit had been issued.

Judge William H. Pauley III of United States District Court in Manhattan is considering a request by the city to stop the cyclists from riding in large groups unless they obtain a permit. Mr. Siegel said he would submit a complaint to Judge Pauley about the police’s behavior last night.

A senior police official, Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, described Mr. Siegel’s comments as ”mendacious hyperbole.” He said, ”We arrested those who broke the law.”