Volume 75, Number 35 | January 18 - 24, 200

Judge: Cyclists don’t need parade permit

By Albert Amateau

A Criminal Court judge in Manhattan ruled on Jan. 9 that the city parade permit law that police have been using to arrest participants in the Critical Mass bicycle ride is unconstitutional.

In a 17-page decision, Judge Gerald Harris dismissed the parading-without-a-permit cases against eight Critical Mass bike riders who were arrested in January 2005. Judge Harris said the parade permit law was “hopelessly overbroad” and “constitutes a burden on free expression that is more than the First Amendment can bear.”

But Harris found the defendants in the cases guilty of disorderly conduct charges filed against them in addition to parading without a permit.

Gideon Oliver, lawyer for the cyclists, said the decision should “challenge the city to reconsider its aggressive stance toward policing First Amendment activities in general and the Critical Mass bicycle rides in particular.”
Bruce Bentley of the National Lawyers Guild said most of the 1,806 protestors arrested during the Republican National Convention were prosecuted for parading without a permit on foot or bike.

Since the R.N.C., the city has arrested more than 300 bicyclists for parading without a permit.

Police claim the Critical Mass rides disrupt traffic and threaten public safety. Advocates say the rides are spontaneous events that bring attention to nonautomobile transportation alternatives.

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