Even as public opposition to New York City’s parade requirements continues to mount, the New York Police Department’s proposed rules on legally permitted assembly appear almost certain to go into effect by the end of December. The rules, which would prohibit public gatherings of as few as ten people who do not first obtain a permit from the police, were the subject of a raucous public hearing at Police Headquarters on Monday, Nov. 27. Nearly 150 people, including ten members of New York’s 50-person City Council, attended the meeting to denounce what Councilwoman Gail Brewer (D-Upper West Side) called a “cumbersome and heavy-handed” attempt by the NYPD to limit the “everyday and universally accepted practices of ordinary New Yorkers.
Although the NYPD withdrew an earlier assembly and parade proposal in August in the face of widespread public outrage, the new rules “are no more reasonable than the first,” and would limit funeral processions, impromptu bike rides of more than 30 people and city walking tours, according to Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside). “I urge the department to withdraw the proposed amendments and begin a dialogue with all interested parties to come up with a proposed set of rules which will promote public safety and protect and the rights of citizens to assemble,” noted Avella in his testimony at the hearing.
Testimony from Mitchel Cohen of the New York City Green Party lightened what was otherwise a contentious day at Police Headquarters. According to Assemble for Rights NYC, a coalition of two dozen local activist groups including United for Peace and Justice, the International Action Center, Times Up! and the Center for Constitutional Rights, the process by which the regulations are being implemented is as problematic as the rules themselves, with the NYPD drawing up the very regulations it will be then charged with enforcing. Instead, Assemble For Rights believes that the New York City Council, “as the representatives of the people of the city,” has the authority to make laws affecting the “fundamental rights of New Yorkers.” Assemble for Rights is pushing a proposed amendment to the section of the city’s Administrative Code, “The NYC First Amendment Act,” that would trump the NYPD regulations.
There are no hearings on the proposed council bill currently scheduled.