2005-03-27 Norman Siegel Statement

March 27, 2005

Statement by Norman Siegel
Re: In an Affront to First Amendment Rights, New York City Sues
TIME’S UP! Nonprofit Environmental Group
and Continues to Criminalize Critical Mass Bicycle Ride

NEW YORK, New York — On Friday evening, the NYPD
continued its campaign to criminalize Critical Mass Bike Rides.

Once again, an inordinate amount of police were assigned to
a peaceful First Amendment protective expressive activity. Once
again, needless and false arrests were made.

Once again, bike locks were broken by power saws and bikes
were seized by the NYPD.

Moreover for the first time since the Republican National
Convention last August, orange netting was used to conduct
preemptive arrests. Preemptive arrests are antithetical to
American jurisprudence. In America, you are supposed to be
arrested for your unlawful conduct, not for your intent
to commit an unlawful act.

And here, no court of law has yet said that riding a bike in
the streets of New York City without a permit is unlawful. So we
submit, bike riding without a permit is not unlawful.
Consequently there is no legal basis for these arrests. I call
upon D.A. Morgenthau to nolle prose these arrests.

Additionally, the NYPD’s power sawing the locks and seizing
the bikes of Critical Mass bike riders — the way they did it
on Friday night — is without legal basis and an example of
selective enforcement of the law, which is unconstitutional in
and of itself.

Last October, we got a preliminary injunction stopping this
NYPD action and we will report what happened this past Friday to
the Federal Judge who issued the preliminary injunction.

A person can chain his or her bike to a pole as long as it
does not interfere with pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

The NYPD continues to unlawfully argue that when Critical
Mass bike riders lock their bikes to a pole, the bikes magically
become unattended property and the police can seize the bikes.
This reasoning is vacuous. We will challenge this NYPD policy
and practice in the courts.

Also, last week the City of New York served a summons and
complaint on TIME’S UP! Inc., and four alleged volunteer leaders
of TIME’S UP! The City wants a state judge to (a) enjoin the
Critical Mass bike rides unless they got a permit and (b) enjoin
the Critical Mass gathering in Union Square unless a special
events permit is gotten from the Parks Department.

Both of these claims were previously made in the Federal
Court litigation. Once again, we will vigorously oppose the
City’s position — this time in the state court.

Finally, the City argues in their court papers — for the
first time — that TIME’S UP! and the four individuals and
everyone acting in concert with them should be enjoined from
advertising and publishing the Critical Mass gathering in Union
Square Park unless a permit is obtained. This argument is very
troubling. It’s a prior restraint and a violation of the First
Amendment. It’s clearly unconstitutional.

The City’s argument has huge ramifications for protest
activities: If the city prevails, social justice activists could
not publicize the gathering of people to engage in any form of
civil disobedience. How would the Civil Rights Movement have
evolved if this authoritarian viewpoint had been in place 50
years ago?

We will strongly oppose this argument by the city.

We need to and will ask the courts to enjoin the City and the
NYPD. from engaging in the unconstitutional and illegal actions
they have been taking against Critical Mass bike riders for the
last six months.

These NYPD actions must stop. Mayor Bloomberg must tell
Police Commissioner Kelly to chill.

Critical Mass bike rides have occurred in New York City for
six years. They have taken place without incident, tension, or
controversy for years. But since the RNC this has changed. The
police now seem to be targeting and overreacting to
Critical Mass bike rides. There is an increasing clash of
cultures. The NYPD’s law and order/control vs. the bike riders’
freedom to ride. The Bloomberg Administration and the NYPD need
to better understand and respect Critical Mass premises. They

  1. There are no leaders — it’s a group of individual bike
    riders participating in a spontaneous ad hoc event.
  2. There is no predetermined route. By unilaterally
    imposing one, the police won’t resolve all the issues that
    concern the ride.
  3. If you have a right to ride in the street, you do not need the governments permission to do so. You of course, must
    follow the vehicular traffic laws, rules, and regulations.

Critical Mass bike rides will continue. The bike riders and
the NYPD need to continue to talk to find better ways to
guarantee the right for New Yorkers to ride their bicycles in
the streets free of arrest, harassment and hostility, and in
ways that guarantee public safety for all New Yorkers.


Go back to the related TIME’S UP! Press Release: