Thursday, March 24, 2005

The NYC District Attorney Makes the Campaign Against Critical Mass Personal

New York, New York - The New York City District Attorney has taken legal action against Time’s Up organizers in an attempt to stop the monthly Critical Mass bicycle rides and limit what the group is allowed to say. On Wednesday an injunction was filed against the group as well as specific individuals Bill Dipaola, Brandon Neubauer, Leah Rorvig, and Matthew Roth. If the injunction is granted by the state court it will be illegal for any of the named individuals, members of Time’s Up, or "all those acting in concert with" them to promote Critical Mass. Lawyers for the group plan to file a response asking that the city’s request for an injunction be denied.

If Time’s Up’s lawyers fail to halt the injunction, those named would be barred from speaking to the media about Critical Mass or even distribute flyers with the rides time and date. Those who violate the order risk "contempt of court" charges and would be subject to punishment under state law of two possible sentences: a fine of up to $1,000 or a jail sentence of up to thirty days or both. “This is really a freedom of speech issue” says Bill Dipaola. “The city is telling us what we are allowed to say and where we are allowed to assemble.”

Last October the city attempted to obtain an injunction against “Critical Mass” but because Critical Mass is an event and not a group, and because the police allowed the ride to occur for so many years without permits, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley III turned down their request. He went on to say “To issue an injunction on such a gossamer thread would stretch this court’s jurisdiction beyond the limited elasticity of [the law].” Judge Pauley also ordered the NYPD to halt its practice of cutting locks and confiscating bicycles on public sidewalks.

Favorable court rulings have not brought any changes to the manner in which the NYPD has been treating cyclists. Bikes locked to public and private property were cut in plain view of Time’s Up’s attorney Norman Siegel following the Halloween Critical Mass ride and police have continued to chase and arrest riders costing the city tens of thousands of dollars in police expenditures over the past seven months according to Time’s Up.

One of the numerous un-official Critical Mass websites (there are no official websites) calls the event, which takes place in over 400 locations around the world, “an unorganized coincidence” and “a ride without leaders.” According to Time’s Up the route is determined by the riders as they go, and is not preplanned.

New York City Critical Mass rides have occurred monthly without significant incident and often with the co-operation and assistance of the police since 1998. The city has been anything but co-operative with riders since last Augusts regularly scheduled ride swelled to 10,000 participants on the eve of the Republican National Convention. The police department employed hundreds of officers, a brand new fleet of un-marked scooters, a new sound truck, a blimp and at least one helicopter to assist in arrests of 264 cyclists on that ride.