Singapore on the Hudson

The new law being drafted and prepared for enforcement by the NYPD would set a terrible precedent.

It’s a bad law, for sure. It greatly broadens the power of the NYPD to enforce it’s “parading without a permit” crime. Here’s what it says:

  • Any group of two (yes, 2) or more cyclists or pedestrians traveling down a public street, who violate any traffic law, rule or regulation can be arrested for parading without a permit;
  • Every group of 20 or more cyclists must obtain a permit and approved route from the NYPD;
  • Every group of 35 or more pedestrians must obtain a permit and approved route from the NYPD.

This will turn New York City into Singapore on the Hudson. It will give the police the authority to arrest anyone on the street. They may already do this, but this will make it legitimate.

You and your friend jaywalk? Go to jail. You and a friend riding your bikes without bells, outside of bike lanes, or with your feet off the pedals? Go to jail. Not, go to jail on some trumped up charge. Go to jail as in, guilty as charged.

And that’s not even the real problem with this law. The city obviously needs new rules on parading after a judge struck down the overly-broad current statute the NYPD was using to arrest bike riders indiscriminately at the monthly Critical Mass rides.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has offered a much better solution, forming an independent agency charged with issuing parade and assembly permits, which it published as part of its analysis of police misconduct during the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Really, the First Amendment is the only permit we need. The police and the mayor forfeited their permitting authority when they so blatantly abused it in that summer of 2004, as confirmed recently in court.

Policing parades notwithstanding, the real problem of this new law is that it was written by the executive branch of our local government, not the legislative branch. There’s a name for that kind of government, and it’s not democracy.

The NYPD made the announcement on July 18, is holding an informational hearing on August 23 at their headquarters, and can put the measure into effect the next day.

It never has to go before City Council, the state legislature, or Congress. But it is written like a law, will have the effect of law, and violating it will be a crime punishable with at least a night in jail (or three nights, as people who “paraded without a permit” during the 2004 Republican National Convention received).

This is more than a further slide down the slope of high-pressure, sacrifice-your-civil-liberties policing we’ve seen throughout the current and previous Republican mayors. This is a dangerous new precedent that says the NYPD gets to write its own laws and decide how to enforce them.

We need to get City Council to stand up for itself and us:

  1. Contact Speaker Quinn and tell her you oppose the proposed rules:
  2. Contact your City Councilmember, tell them you’re outraged over the NYPD’s proposed changes to the parade permit rules and ask your City Councilmember to speak out about them at the August 23rd hearing. Look up your Councilmember at:

If you want to take part in public events:

  1. Speak at the public forum being held tonight, Thursday, August 17, at 7:00 pm at St. Mark’s Church.
  2. Join a public rally before the NYPD hearing at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, August 23, at 1 Police Plaza.

For more information, visit Assemble for Rights NYC and Transportation Alternatives.

UPDATE: NYPD has withdrawn the first draft
, which is why it’s important to object to the principle, not the content.


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