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NYCLU Calls On Police Department To Abandon Proposed Expansion Of Parade-Permit Scheme

The New York Civil Liberties Union today called on the New York City Police Department to abandon new rules the Department has proposed that would require small protest groups lawfully using public streets to obtain police permits. The NYCLU objections came in written comments filed today with the Police Department in anticipation of a public hearing scheduled for November 27.

The NYPD proposal would for the first time require any group of 30 or more vehicles or bicycles to obtain a police permit for roadway protests, even if the group was obeying all traffic laws. The proposal also would allow the arrest of any group of ten or more if some members of the group violated a traffic rule.

“The last thing we need is for small protest groups lawfully using public streets to have to get a police permit or face arrest,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “This proposal illustrates why the City Council and others must now consider fundamental reform of the parade-permit process.”

The NYCLU, which regularly represents groups seeking parade permits, noted in its comments that it can be very difficult to obtain a parade permit from the Police Department. In light of this difficulty and of the lack of any demonstrated problems with groups of 30 lawfully using city streets, the NYCLU said, the newly proposed permit requirement would be an unjustifiable burden on free speech.

The comments also noted the NYCLU’s concern that the proposal allowing the arrest of groups of ten or more when some individuals in those groups commit traffic infractions will mean that law-abiding and well-intended individuals may face arrest.

Finally, the NYCLU objected to the Department’s proposal to keep all of Fifth Avenue between 15th Street and 114th Street off-limits to new marches. As the NYCLU noted in its written comments, this broad ban cannot be justified by a concern that there are too many parades on all sections of Fifth Avenue, since as of the present there are virtually never parades above 79th Street and below 42nd Street.

“Like sidewalks, our public streets long have been used for lawful protest activity,” NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn said. “Requiring police permission for roadway protests that obey traffic rules simply invites unnecessary tension between the police and protesters. The Department should abandon this misguided effort.”

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