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02/17/2007: "Liberty, Law, & Us"
As many of you may know, the NYPD has been engaging in blanket videotaping and photographing of people involved in peaceful, legal demonstrations or even simple public gatherings for several years now. This is the same police department that recently (and fruitlessly) proposed requiring a parade permit for even as few as two persons to bicycle together somewhere, in an effort to limit public expression of political sentiment!

I personally don't see how any parade permit law can be constitutional when applied to political activity.

As you also may know, NYPD has been aggressively targeting Critical Mass rides in the city, apparently cead set on either favoring the arrogant minority that drives there, or suppressing anything that smacks of an expression of opinion, no matter how legal it may be--and riding a bicycle on the street is a specific legal privilege granted by the Universal Vehicle Code as well as every state law.

Well, here's a partial victory: a judge in NewYork ruled that the police department itself has been breaking the law in not requesting a permit from the court for its taping and photography, in which procedure it would have to substantiate significant probability of illegal activities occurring in the course of a specific gathering they wish to record. (Remember, what they are recording are your faces!)

Unfortunately, the judge seems to have made an exception for Critical Mass, apparently because some folks run red lights during rides:
At monthly group bicycle rides in Lower Manhattan known as Critical Mass, some participants break traffic laws, and the police routinely videotape those events, Judge Haight noted. That would be an appropriate situation for taping, he said, but police officials did not follow the guidelines and apply for permission.
Police would still have to obtain permission to videotape CM.

The irony is that this concept, if applied to drivers, another group privileged to use public roads under the law (though they don't pay nearly the cost of accommodating their habit), would require police videotaping of every motorist in Manhattan!

Seems to me a clear case of unequal protection. Who's protecting us from motorists while the cops are "protecting" motorists from a bunch of 22-lb. fixies?

The only things that make the US different from the dozens of countries that suffer under dictators or fascist juntas are the basic rights granted in the Constitution and its amendments, specifically freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly, and trial by jury.

New Yorkers, start opening your mouths if ya haven't already! (Many have, of course; it's New York!) The rest of us, let's watch out. The powers-that-be in every state will be watching to see what NYPD can get away with.

It can happen here.

The article (02/16/2007): Judge Limits New York Police Taping (NYT; requires free registration.)

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