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Not Guilty!

It's amazing how often over the years I've had to spend time in court rooms for simply participating in legal, constitutionally protected protest. In almost all cases, things get thrown out of court before trial. I've been told a number of times by different lawyers "the process is the punnishment."

The rights that exist on paper can prevent one from being brought to trial or convicted, they don't prevent you from being arrested. It's State sponsored harassment. Everyone involved knows what the outcome will be, but the goal of the State is not to go to trial, the goal is to make exercising your rights painful and complicated. I have to wonder at what point this reality makes those rights non-existent.

When it comes to the NYC Critical Mass bike rides, I've had a good string of luck. While more rides than I can count have been harassed by the police with many riders being ticketed or arrested, until two months ago I always manged to avoid the police at those moments.

There I was, riding in the bike lane, with scooter cops on my side and behind me. The light is turning yellow, I look back and realize that if I were to slow down and stop for the light there was no way that I would not have been hit by at least one of the fast-moving scooters. Out of concern for my safety, and knowing that if a cop hit me on his scooter and got hurt, that I would be arrested for causing his injury, I moved through the light as it turned red with the 4 cops around me. Immediately I was pushed off to the side and told to get off my bike.

I was glad when I was only written a ticket for running a red light and not taken downtown.

Today was my day in Traffic Court. I was all prepared with graphics detailing the position of my bike, the other riders, the cops at different points as the light changed. I was determined to win.

The judge seemed completely bored. Maybe she was going on vacation at the end of the day or something, I'm not sure.

The officer and I were standing before the Judge and I opened up my folder of printouts. He looked at me and gave me a smirk and waved his hand in a way that said "put all that away, it won't be necessary." When the judge asked him to present his case, he simply said "I'm sorry, but I'm not prepared for this case"

The judge then looked at me, reminded me that bicycles are required to follow the same rules as cars, and then dismissed the case as the State had not shown that any violation had happened.

It was nice to win and for it to be so easy, but somehow a letdown because I did not get to make my argument.

As we walked away from the bench, the cop said softly "just don't do it again,"
I replied "I didn't do it the first time, if I had stopped you would have hit me...." as I was talking he gave me a look that felt a bit threatening, so I stopped and said "thank you" and headed home.

The process is the punnishment.

"I didn't do it the first time..."

Gift horse! Mouth!! Looking!!

totally, but

rights aren't rights unless you look the gift horse in the mouth. err, I mean to say that it is very difficult to thank a cop for having violated my rights even if he did make it easier for me to be found not guilty of something I did not do.