Judge: "Parade Permit" Law Doesn't Violate First Amendment

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A federal judge ruled today that the NYPD did not violate the Constitution by requiring cyclists to file for parade permits when riding in groups of 50 or more. Two years ago, the NYPD began enforcing the controversial new rule, which gave legal legitimacy to a police crackdown on the monthly Critical Mass bicycle rides in Manhattan, which have been a source of tension between cyclists and cops ever since the Republican convention in 2004.

A lawsuit filed by a coalition of riders and advocacy groups argued that the Parade Permit law volates the First Amendment right of assembly; they also argued that the NYPD has been selectively enforcing traffic laws and harassing cyclists in violation of the 14th Amendment. In his ruling today, Judge Lewis Kaplan said that while he is sympathetic to cyclists' concerns, he was not persuaded by the argument that the 50-person threshold is "arbitrary" and "lower than necessary to achieve the city's substantial interests in safety, efficiency and traffic flow," CBS2 reports.

Reacting to today's ruling, Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, said, "In their hunt for rules that would permit a crackdown on Critical Mass, the NYPD has seriously restricted the freedom and mobility of New York City’s fastest-growing mode of transportation. I cannot think of a policy more at odds with the City’s otherwise laudable efforts to increase bicycling. A group of bicyclists doesn’t obstruct traffic any more than a group of motorists. Bicyclists ARE traffic."

And Barbara Ross at Times Up! tells us, "It is disturbing that our Constitutional right to peacefully assemble is being trampled on by the NYPD, who are threatened by the sight of 50 law-abiding New Yorkers on two wheels."

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