Cycling/enviro group needs our support

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Anonymous's picture

"Fellow NYCCers,

I’m posting a letter from Bill DiPaola, one of four TIME'S UP! members who are being sued by the City of New York. The group is facing $30,000 worth of legal fees immediately connected with this grossly unjust case.

I urge you to join me in sending a check (in any amount) to help Bill, Matthew, Leah, and Brandon protect their civil liberties -- and ours -- by stopping the city from targeting individuals whose viewpoints, looks, bike frames, or whatever it doesn’t happen to like. You or I could very well be next.

If you’re thinking “it can’t happen here,” take a look at the Times article published today about the Parks Dept.’s plan to restrict large gatherings in Central Park. Unless you think we need a grass museum more than the right to speak and assemble freely, you should be concerned about this progressive erosion of our means of dissent.

My check for $100 goes in the mail today. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.

Carol Wood


Dear Friend,

As you may have heard, four TIME'S UP! volunteers -- and TIME'S UP! itself -- are being sued by the City of New York. Why are the City of New York and its Parks Department suing a group of environmentalists? For riding bikes, talking about riding bikes to the press, and encouraging other people to use this sustainable, environmentally-sound form of transportation.

If you care about your right to free speech and free assembly, you should be incredibly concerned. The suit against us has major ramifications on First Amendment activity nationwide. That's why it's so important that we win -- and to win, we need your help. TIME'S UP! is currently facing $30,000 in legal fees. Please visit

today and make a donation to the TIME'S UP! Bike Legal Defense Fund.

If you haven’t ridden in the Critical Mass bike ride, you have probably heard of it. Started in San Francisco in 1992, Critical Mass rides take place monthly in almost 400 cities on six continents. New York's Critical Mass is now under attack -- and the four of us and TIME'S UP! are being singled out in that attack.

In New York, August 27, 2004, was the date of a massive police crackdown on this peaceful community event. Two days before the start of the Republic National Convention (RNC), some 5,000 cyclists gathered together to ride their bikes through the city. By the end of the night, 264 were cuffed and sent to jail -- for riding bikes. They've been charged with disorderly conduct and parading without a permit, the criminal equivalent of a speeding ticket. (To date, more than 80% of those charges have been dismissed or thrown out for lack of evidence.)

So what does this have to do with us? As Critical Mass participants, we -- and many, many others -- spoke out against the police's egregious behavior. We spoke to the press. We've been quoted in the New York Times, the BBC World News, USA Today, as well as many smaller community papers, and we've been regularly featured on network news and radio. Because we spoke out, we have been targeted. Our names and titles as listed in the lawsuit come directly from descriptions of us in the papers.

Despite police threats, we keep riding every single month. And the police keep arresting. At every Critical Mass since the RNC -- except for December -- the police have arrested bike riders. In March alone, 37 people were arrested simply for riding bikes in a group.

But cuffing cyclists wasn't enough. In September and in March, the NYPD illegally seized dozens of bikes. Many of these were chained to public property (such as parking signs and light poles) near where the arrests were taking place. The police used their most sophisticated machinery and highly"

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Terrific interview...
Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Crime: possession of a bicycle

"Thanks to the NYPD, newspaper coverage focuses not on the substance of the permitted free speech rally that preceded last night's Critical Mass bike ride, but once again, the bullying behavior of the police.

""In one of the first arrests of the evening, a young woman who was straddling her bike and walking it out of the south end of Union Square Park was seized and personally arrested by Assistant Police Chief Bruce H. Smolka Jr.

""You're riding your bicycle on the sidewalk,"" Chief Smolka said. ""You're under arrest.""

The woman protested that she had done nothing wrong. The chief insisted that she get off her bicycle immediately, and then he tried to pull her off. The woman argued, and then other police officers, some of them wearing plainclothes, joined the chief and forcibly removed the woman from the bike.

Ride participants tried to retrieve the woman's bike and scuffled with police officers, who then arrested a second woman.

...A line of 10 motorcycles then sealed the edge of the sidewalk at the intersection of 14th Street and Union Square East. The arrested woman began to give her name in response to a question from a reporter, but only uttered one word - ""Lisa"" - before she was pushed into the van and the reporter was forced away from her.""

Cops also arrested a Times reporter interviewing people in the East Village."

Anonymous's picture
Isaac Brumer (not verified)

You know that you and I don't always see ""eye to eye"" on issues, but I believe that this case is important enough to have its day in court. Also, I find the attitude and actions of some of our ""public servants"" to be repugnant. Finally, I'm a Norman Siegel fan (fellow Brooklyn alum and besides, I enjoy the gear I get from you.) So, notwithstanding my being ""between jobs,"" I've made a contribution to this fund. I encourage the others to do so, as well.

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)


I knew all along that you were a mensch at heart. Thank you.


Anonymous's picture
Isaac Brumer (not verified)

Aww, shucks, Carol. I was also donating in honor of Jerry Allen (whose status I did not know at the time.) Just learned about his death. Sad.

Anonymous's picture
Cindy Brome (not verified)
Any ideas why?

Carol, thank you for keeping us informed. I've forwarded the Time's Up letter to my friends and made an extra contribution.

Does anyone know WHY the cops have gone crazy over Critial Mass? It's hard to imagine a more innocuous gathering, especially now that everyone is staying off the sidewalk, stopping at red lights, etc. Surely the police have something better to do!


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Quien sabe?


One can only speculate what is motivating this extended period of harassment. Indeed, the police could be doing far more to protect public safety by ticketing reckless drivers. Matthew Roth discusses this pretty succinctly in his interview on Gothamist.

Also, if you do a search on ""Critical Mass"" for the past six months or year on this board, there are a lot of different views expressed. See this thread from December, for instance. (Most of the posts there are in my name, but they include a lot of content from others. Anyways, you can find more through a search.)

One view attributes the crackdown at least in part to Assistant Police Chief Bruce Smolka (who was head of the Street Crimes unit that gunned down Amadou Diallou) (see Steve Faust's post). Another view sees it as retribution for the RNC protests, at which the NYPD got itself into a lot of hot water. (Still another view is that Critical Mass ""deserves"" what it gets, though I hope by now holders of that view can at least see the inequal treatment under the law that's being handed out, and the sheer wastefulness and irrationality of it.)

The way I see it, Mayor Bloomberg ultimately holds responsibility for allowing the crackdown to continue. While I have a lot of respect for his fiscal abilities, I have to wonder why a publishing magnate has so little regard for First Amendment protections. (Paranoid thought of the day: Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time...oh stop it.) And I have a hard time believing that, aside from those with personality disorders, all the rank-and-file cops on CM duty relish the display of unjust power that tarnishes their badges.

Check out Time's Up's press page and you'll find a lot of documentation on how the conflict has unrolled since last summer.

Thank you for your contribution and for helping to get the word out. Let's make this city safer for walking and biking--and for speaking one's conscience."

Anonymous's picture
Richard Rosenthal (not verified)
Hmm, ticket the driver but arrest the cyclist.

"First, a comment that is beneath me and terribly unfair since people really aren't responsible for their own looks (possibly excepting obesity)..but look at the photo of Smolka in the Sat. NYT and tell me he doesn't look like a stereotype image of a Nazi thug, or, at least Erich von Stroheim. I mean, if you looked to typecast a bully, isn't Smolka's exactly the right image?

The Times article states ""(Police officials) has warned that riders who run red lights, block intersections or otherwise break the law will be arrested.""

Uh, equal enforcement of the law, anyone? Run a light or block an intersection when you're driving and......right! You get a TICKET! (That is, if the police bother to stop you.) They do NOT arrest you.

When cars are parked with their doors locked and their steering wheel locked with ""The Club,"" are they presumed by the police to be ""abandoned"" and therefore removed from the street? Answer: No. Yet when bikes merely thought to be owned by participants in a Crit. Mass ride were locked up, the Smolka's trooops broke the locks and confiscated the bikes using the transparently phony pretext they thought the bikes were abandoned.

Geometry teaches you ""things equal to the same thing are equal to each other."" Obviously, Smolka's troops are non-geometric."

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Photos CM 3/25
Anonymous's picture
seth (not verified)
undercover cop?

are they serious (the cops i mean)? shit, you'd have to be a nomadic camel herder from mongolia to mistake those guys for CMers.

papieren bitte, mach schnell du schweinhund

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
NY Times article

""Flouting Arrest on 2 Wheels, for the Monthly Crime of Pedaling Without a Permit"""

Anonymous's picture
Richard Rosenthal (not verified)
My letter to the NYT in response to this fine column

"To the Editor:

Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Information, Paul J. Browne, puts forward in Dan Barry's column, ""Flouting Arrest on 2 Wheels, for the Monthly Crime of Pedaling Without a Permit"" (May 4) a conundrum of his department's own creation but he doesn't offer an explanation for it: those drivers who are stopped for going through a red light are never arrested; Critical Mass cyclists committing the very same traffic infraction are. ...So much for even-handed, equal enforcement of the law.

Mr. Browne disparaged Norman Siegel, lawyer for some of those arrested, as given to ""hyperbolic mendacity"" (meaning he exaggerates and lies). This is the same Paul Browne who stated around the time of the Critical Mass ride during the GOP convention cyclists ""endanger"" drivers. I've been cycling in New York twenty-five years. In all that time, I've yet to learn of a single driver who has been killed, or, for that matter, even injured by a cyclist. On the other hand, it has been three days since a driver killed a cyclist in the city. If the average holds, there will be around ten more this year.


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