A new rule that would have banned more than 35 people from walking together on the sidewalk without a parade permit is being abandoned because of public outrage, the police department announced Friday.
Proposed in July, the department's new policy on parades had been ridiculed by some as an outrageous restriction of civil rights that would have applied even to groups of schoolchildren or busloads of tourists.
Spontaneous demonstrations of all but the smallest sizes would have been outlawed by the rules, critics said.
Police Department spokesman Paul Browne acknowledged the criticisms Friday. He said although the department doesn't agree with many of the complaints, it had decided to make changes.
A new version of the parade policy is now in the works that would eliminate any reference to sidewalk gatherings, he said.
"Common sense has prevailed," said Christopher Dunn, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the changes.
"From the outset, everyone recognized that the proposed rules swept far too broadly, and we're pleased the police department has now realized that," he said. "There is simply no reason for requiring field trips, sidewalk marches and lawful bike rides to have police permits."
Bike activists at odds with cops
The revision of the parade rules had been prompted by the department's running battle with participants in a monthly group bicycle ride known as Critical Mass.
Once a month, scores and sometimes hundreds of cyclists gather in Manhattan for a group ride down city streets. The rides have been going on for a decade, but since the 2004 Republican National Convention the police department has been insisting that the cyclists need a parade permit.
Participants have refused to apply for one, saying they shouldn't need police permission to ride their bikes, as long as they obey all traffic rules.
So far, the courts have ruled for the cyclists, in part because of a lack of clarity in city regulations.
Browne said the department is already planning another try at a revision.
The latest proposal, he said, is expected to require any group of 10 people or more to get a parade permit if they intended to travel on a city street in a manner that does not comply with all applicable traffic laws. Any group of 20 people or more on foot, in cars or astride bikes would be required to get a permit, even if they did obey traffic rules.
It was unclear Friday whether that would satisfy critics.
"We would oppose any proposal that would require a police permit for people lawfully riding bikes or driving on a roadway," Dunn said.