NYPD caught on tape, again. Critical Mass report for May

The on going saga of harassment from the NYPD against cyclists continues with last week’s monthly critical mass ride in Manhattan.

In May the 5 borough bike club wrapped up its lawsuit trial against the NYPD for their heavy handed parade rule which states no more than 50 people can ride bikes in a group without a permit.

The lawsuit was brought forward by this bicycle club because they felt the parade rule directly effects there own events but more so has been established by the NYPD, back in 2007, as the latest attempt to do away with the monthly critical mass rides.

Critical Mass, a leaderless event, which takes place on the last Friday of every month in over 400 cities around the globe, has been harassed by the NYPD since the Republican National Convention 2004.

The largest conundrum of the parade ruling and critical mass is the fact that this specific event, like in all cities, is not a group and therefore would have no one to apply for a permit.

This situation is a serious catch 22. The police claim they would leave critical mass alone if only it would stick to a designated route and apply for a permit. Ah, yeah slight problem. The route is determined on the fly by individuals attending critcal mass…this is the whole point of the ride and why it has been in the claw of the police, scratching their heads and trying to figure out how to define the ride.

Of course the police never had a problem with critical mass for over 10 years since it was attempted back in 1994. It wasn’t until the weekend of the Republican National Convention of 2004 when the police decided to make it political and lump it together with other formal demonstrations specifically targeting the Republicans and their agenda of illegal occupation, torture and coporate profiteering.

Those 5,000 or so Republican delegates went home, except for Mayor Bloomberg who endorsed George W. Bush and then became one, but the harassment of cyclists stayed. It has manifested into a coordinated campaign by the NYPD not only to assaul, ticket and bother biking at critical mass but also on a daily basis. This was made clear in depositions of high-ranking police officers surrounding the 5BBC lawsuit. Testimony, including from police commissioner Raymond Kelly, eluded to tactics such as infiltrating the ride with “plain clothes”, targeting riders and following them home long after the rides are over.

There have also been sting operations set up to ticket cyclists in mass not only before critical mass rides but on other specific days.

The larger picture is that affects not only the ridership of critical mass but also the bike riding community as a whole. Taking a look at this larger picture is what lead the 5bbc to file this lawsuit and boldly take on such a massive organization like the NYPD.

A decision from the Judge should be coming within a week, but based on the deep-rooted nature of bureaucracy favoring NYPD’s decisions and the lack of media coverage…the verdict is mostly likely to keep the bogus parade rules in effect and do nothing to address the harassment campaign as a whole.

The good news is, its surfaced a lot of amazing evidence against the NYPD and could lead to an investigation called upon with the help of City Council member Rosie Mendez and civil right lawyer, Norman Siegel.

This brings us to the May critical mass where the police continued a heavy handed tactic of handing out summonses and even resorting to physical assault of a videographer trying to record evidence of the police’s bad behavior.

Here is a recent Press release about the trial and ride including video links:

Video footage captures scooter cops following Critical Mass on Westside Greenway and confiscating cyclist’s video camera while documenting the NYPD issuing false tickets to other cyclists

The trial of the 5BBC lawsuit against the NYPD, which questions the constitutionality of policing tactics used against Critical Mass and other group rides, is over and the judge’s ruling is expected any day now.

Commissioner Raymond Kelly, NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne, and over 15 other NYPD officers were deposed on their roles and knowledge of the policing of the Critical Mass rides in preparation for this lawsuit.

These two edited videos from the most recent Critical Mass ride and excerpts from the depositions give a glimpse into the NYPD’s multi-million dollar campaign to follow, ticket, intimidate and harass Critical Mass bicycle riders.

Video from the 5/29 Critical Mass ride showing an NYPD officer ordering the scooter cops to follow groups of cyclists as they were leaving Union Square and then 4 scooter cops following the ride down the Westside Greenway:

Video from the 5/29 Critical Mass ride showing cyclists getting tickets for 4-12(p)(3) which has continually been given out over the years even though it is not a valid ticket and is regularly dismissed in court. Also includes footage of a videographer being harassed and his camera being taken away as he tries to document the scene, another long standing pattern on the Critical Mass rides:

Testimony from Officer Kenneth Wagner confirming the NYPD’s policy of following small groups of cyclist out of Union Square, sometimes as far as to the cyclist’s home and testimony showing Commissioner Raymond Kelly was apparently not aware of this and other questionable tactics of NYPD’s policing of Critical Mass.

For more information on the 5BBC lawsuit go to:

I also received this note about the indecent with the police and the videographer.

The videographer received three tickets, 412(p)(3) that is usually dismissed in court and obstructing vehicle traffic. If you look carefully the light is red so I don’t know how he could have been obstructing anything. It was the police that was blocking one of traffic. They didn’t arrest him but gave him a disorderly conduct ticket. They seemed really puzzled on what tickets to give him. It actually took about a half hour to finally give him these tickets after they rewrote the ticket at least twice. The lawyer for the NYPD, Lieutenant Albano, actually arrived at the scene and seemed to be consulted on what to write on the ticket.

Inspector Hughes (white shirt officer) twisted his harm to get the camera out of his hand, which you can see in video. We don’t know why he grabbed the camera, but we assume it was because he was videotaping the other cyclists getting tickets. This happened at least two other times on the CM that I know about. He did finally give him back the camera after the tickets were finally issued.

This also hit (thanks for posting)

Its been a fairly classic pattern on the critical mass rides. Rank and file officers are ordered in pairs by a white shirted Lieutenants to ticket riders for disobeying traffic laws when they are riding in group less then 30. These violations include not having proper lighting, not stopping at red lights and not riding in bike lanes. When the individual riders comply with the traffic laws and tell the officers they are not breaking the law, the officers resort to what I like to call: “making shit up.” Cyclists are then given summons for failing to ride to the right, which is not illegal. When cyclists decide to ride on greenways designed for bicycles and pedestrain traffic and not motor vehicles…the police violate this space and follow the riders on the paths which are depicted in the video.

If this isn’t harassment, then what is?

Is the NYPD so desperate to stop critical mass that they have to ticket and follow cyclists even when they are not engaged in critical mass?

answer: Yes.

Lastly, May is supposed to be bike month, cycling is supposed to be encouraged in this city for cleaner air, better transportation, happier people.

When is the NYPD going to get the memo?

2 comments to NYPD caught on tape, again. Critical Mass report for May

  • […] under Activism, Cycling, Law, Police brutality No Comments  Here’s a really thorough update from Bike Blog NYC on the ongoing harrassment of Manhattan cyclists by NYPD and the status of activist efforts to […]

  • Will

    I’m sure the mayor of NYC has seen these clips one time or another, the sad part is that as much as the city “wants to become green and motorist free” these types of behavior are still being practiced. Sad, very sad.
    How about these cops go fight some true crimes like catching robbers. ah the good ol’ days.