FreeWheels is a non-profit organization started
in 2005 by people
who had been arrested together while committing the "crime" of riding a
bicycle in Critical Mass,
an "organized coincidence" that meets in cities around the world on the
last Friday of every month.
For years in New
York City, the police
acted as "chaperones" to Critical Mass, shadowing the ride on bikes and
scooters, temporarily closing intersections as the ride meandered
peacefully through the city. But during the Republican National
Convention in August of 2004, when the city erupted in widespread
non-violent protest, the NYPD adopted harsh measures to shut down
dissent. More than 5,000 riders turned out for Critical Mass on August
27, 2004, just prior to the opening of the RNC. The NYPD responded in
force, arresting 264 bicyclists and seizing their bikes as "evidence."
Since the August arrests, Critical Mass has been the target of ongoing
harassment by the NYPD, who insist the riders are breaking the law by
"parading without a permit."
For more than 18 months, riders
handcuffed, put in a
paddy wagon or police bus, and taken to a downtown precinct. FreeWheels
met arrestees as they emerged from the police precincts, offering
them food, drink, loaner bikes,
and forms to fill out so that volunteer lawyers can help them get their
bikes back more quickly.
Our legal challenges forced the
police to scale back their harassment to ticketing
for invalid charges such as "failure to keep right" or "riding outside
of the bike lane."
But in a move to repress not just bicyclists but ALL groups that dare
to assemble without seeking their permission, the NYPD is attempting to
label many common street and side walk uses as a "parade". If put into
effect, these new rules will greatly suppress the right to assembly and
expose peaceful protestors as well as regular people to arrest for
things as simple as crossing the street against the light. Join
FreeWheels and many other concerned New Yorkers to find out what you can
do about it.
Should the police get their way and
once again resort to arrests, FreeWheels is ready to resume arrest