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Bikes Against Bush Creator Busted 1159

Posted by timothy
from the non-partisan dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Joshua Kinberg, creator of Bikes Against Bush, was arrested in NYC for vandalism while being interviewed by MSNBC. Kinberg's website describes his project as 'using a Wireless Internet-enabled bicycle outfitted with a custom-designed printing device, the Bikes Against Bush bicycle can print text messages sent from web users directly onto the streets of Manhattan in water-soluble chalk". Both Wired and Popular Science have done stories on Kinberg's work." Update: 08/30 01:30 GMT by J : Mr. Kinberg has been released; he describes his arrest and brief stay behind bars on this MSNBC blog.
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Bikes Against Bush Creator Busted

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  • by mOoZik (698544) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:08PM (#10102920) Homepage
    Even though the chalk is water-soluble, he admitted previously that it takes almost 2 weeks to wash off. I don't have a problem with his political stance - in fact, I agree with him - but the mere fact that his plan revolved around the defacement of public property is enough to warrant an arrest. IANAL, but writing stuff all over the sidewalk (over an extended area) - even in chalk - has to be against some local laws.

    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:15PM (#10102979)


      > IANAL, but writing stuff all over the sidewalk (over an extended area) - even in chalk - has to be against some local laws.

      I wonder how often they bust schoolgirls for drawing hopscotch guides on public sidewalks.

      • by mOoZik (698544) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:23PM (#10103052) Homepage
        If you have difficulty seeing the difference between hopscotch guides and a widely distributed network of sidewalk defacement - then you're hopeless. You're probably even convinced that this was politically motivated.

      • as often as they draw legible political messages on the pavement, i suppose.

      • by t0qer (230538) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:49PM (#10103241) Homepage Journal
        Slightly OT but there was an ABC after school special in the 80's starring Alyssa Milano (Who's the boss) and Fred Gwynne (Munsters frankenstien dude) where Fred Gwynne played a southern judge who took justice a little too far by locking up juviniles for minor crimes in adult jails. Alyssa Milano was locked away for some minor violation, and subsequentially molested by a guard there.

        Charges were filed against Fred Gwynnes character, and while they were cross examining him, they brought up an old case where he locked up 2 8 year olds for "vandalism" for drawing hopscotch on the sidewalk with chalk.

        Oh, and the story was based on real a real story. So yes, girls have been locked up for drawing hopscotch on the sidewalk (by insane southern frankenstien judges)
    • by StillAnonymous (595680) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:16PM (#10102993)
      I don't think it's so bad. I'm forced to put up with advertising that is shoved in my face everywhere I go, and I get no say about it. The only difference here is that this guy did it for free and it's messages from the people, not from some corporation that has profit in mind.

      Hmm, that seems to be the sad state of today's world. Everything's a-ok as long as you've paid somebody. Nothing's legit unless money transfers hands.
      • by cyberchondriac (456626) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @02:11PM (#10103386) Journal
        I don't think it's so bad. I'm forced to put up with advertising that is shoved in my face everywhere I go, and I get no say about it. The only difference here is that this guy did it for free and it's messages from the people, not from some corporation that has profit in mind.

        My eyes are accosted daily by billboards and advertising, but they do obey certain zoning laws, costs, and restrictions. Supposedly, anyway.
        Frankly, I do take some objection to the original post for referring to this as, "this guy's work". Really, "work" ? Like this is some sort of serious artistic endeavor ? Or are they referring to his "getting the message out" kind of work ?
        I don'particularly care to see pro Bush, pro Kerry, anti Bush, nor anti Kerry chalk graffiti on the streets. It's just bozotic. Hell, I don't even like seeing all the political posters and placards that people put up on their front lawn, but that's their private property so they have that right.
        I guess it comes down to this: people have the right to express themselves, but do they have the right to shove it in my face ?
    • OTOH... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by lysium (644252) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:17PM (#10103001)
      I don't recall the architects of the NYC MSN Butterfly sticker campaign going to jail; they just paid for the clean-up. This guy gets delayed-process treatment and permanently loses his bike.


    • On the other hand, there is the question of his actions being "speech," and in the class of "speech" protected by the first amendment. (I use quotes around speech because the Supreme Court has established precedents that delineate more than the literal act of vocalizing words as "speech", such as Cohen v. California in the 70s.) Precisely whether or not his actions fall into that protected class and trumping the local charges with federal law will, of course, be a matter for the courts.

      Personally I though

      • by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:31PM (#10103118) Homepage
        Have you read Houston v. Hill [findlaw.com] Recently. You're a texas guy.

        And GULLIFORD v PIERCE COUNTY [findlaw.com] ...Relying, inter alia, on the Supreme Court's decision in Hill, we ruled in Mackinney v. Nielsen that expressive conduct such as writing with chalk on the sidewalk does not itself create probable cause for arrest ...

        He should be released ASAP, and the state should pay for his pains, plus reimburse the lost opportunity costs.

        (All this said - i believe the first amendment protectes those who disagree with protected speech and their right to "clean up the mess" personally i prefer to collect litter on a stick - and have been arrested for that so - it cuts both ways.

        AIK
    • by kfg (145172) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:18PM (#10103012)
      . . . it takes almost 2 weeks to wash off.

      By natural erosion, or about 2 minutes with a hose.

      . . .writing stuff all over the sidewalk (over an extended area) - even in chalk - has to be against some local laws.

      Yeah, that's why they arrest all of those sidewalk artists and kids playing hopscotch who aren't engaging in political speech.

      KFG
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Shall we then arrest all the local children who draw on the sidewalks in water soluable chalk? After all the kids' messages are non-political and much less deserving of first amendment protection according to the US courts, who have upheld consistently that government criticism deserves the highest protection of free speech?

      No, really? We shouldn't arrest the kids? Shouldn't the law apply equally?

      This person did no permanent damage to the public environment. He was not trespassing on private property. His
    • by CrkHead (27176) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @02:12PM (#10103393)
      IANAL, but writing stuff all over the sidewalk (over an extended area) - even in chalk - has to be against some local laws.

      Yes, this may be in violation of some local ordinance. What concerns me is that the arresting officers and their superiors are not sure what ordinance it violates, so they confiscate his property and arrest him anyway.

      A free society dies when law enforcement can begin arresting people and look for an illegal act later. If proffesionals are no longer sure of what is legal, how is an ordinary citizen able to stay within the law?

  • The question is: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xshare (762241) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:09PM (#10102925) Homepage
    Was he doing it in Linux? Slashdot humor aside, he was arrested perfectly legally, for vandalism. People here will say "Omg look at them arresting people for not liking bush, blah blah blah!", but guys... what he did was vandalism, whether or not it was about pink elephants, faeries, or a dumbass president.
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:12PM (#10102955)


      > what he did was vandalism, whether or not it was about pink elephants, faeries, or a dumbass president.

      Actually he was going around printing "first post!" on all the sidewalks in the neighborhood, and the authorities thought it was some kind of coded terrorist message.

    • by Anonymous Froward (695647) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @02:57PM (#10103639)

      No. The fact is that he's kept in custody for hours without being told why, nor being charged for anything.

      It seems that nobody including the sergeant himself who arrested this guy was sure about the reason for this very arrest. The only thing I can see here is that the sergeant was told by somebody to arrest him for some reason that is not known to us at the moment.

      Maybe it was vandalism indeed, maybe not. But if it was the case, they could have told the guy that he was arrested because of vandalism. Anyway here's the article, in case you're too lazy:

      When Kinberg showed the police sergeant how the bicycle used a non-permanent spray chalk, the sergeant seemed to agree that it wasn't defacement, at which point Kinberg asked, "am I free to go?" After conferring about it, officers decided to call superiors, then came back moments later to place Kinberg under arrest and confiscate the bicycle.

      Kinberg cooperated fully with the officers as he was being handcuffed, only asking, "can I ask what I'm being arrested for?" to which no one provided an answer. As of 11:00 PM Saturday evening, he was still in custody without being charged with anything.

  • 1st admentment (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Apathy (584315) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:09PM (#10102926)

    Well fuck the first admendment here. I'm a Bush supporter and I think this guy got railroaded. Nothing wrong with what he was doing. I hope he sues the fuck out of NYC for this.

  • by Bryan Gividen (739949) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:09PM (#10102931)
    First Swift Boats are against Kerry.
    Now bikes are against Bush.

    This is only the beginning. The machines will soon rule us all...
  • I wonder if . . . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ir0b0t (727703) * <{mjewell} {at} {openmissoula.org}> on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:11PM (#10102950) Homepage Journal
    the message "support our troops" would have gotten him arrested.
  • by LuxFX (220822) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:13PM (#10102962) Homepage Journal
    One would hope that this guy has some possibility of defending himself, if the charge is for vandalism. IANAL, but as far as I know a charge of vandalism needs proof of the intent to damage property. By using water-soluable chalk this guy has shown that he's not interested in damaging the property, only in showing his messages.
  • by dave-tx (684169) <df19808+slashdot ... minus physicist> on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:13PM (#10102968)
    According to TFA:
    Kinberg cooperated fully with the officers as he was being handcuffed, only asking, "can I ask what I'm being arrested for?" to which no one provided an answer. As of 11:00 PM Saturday evening, he was still in custody without being charged with anything.

    I think it's safe to say that if being inconvenient or embarassing to Republicans during the Convention was a crime, that's what his charge would have been. As it is, they'll just have to hold him for a while.

    Shameful the level some officials will stoop to silence dissent.

    • I can't figure out why the Democratic convention wasn't protest this much. After all, both parties are cut from the same cloth. Don't look at what they say, look at what they DO.
      • by thisissilly (676875) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:52PM (#10103259)
        I can't figure out why the Democratic convention wasn't protest[ed] this much.

        That's easy:
        The DNC was held in Boston, a largely Democratic city.
        The RNC was held in New York, a largely Democratic city.
        The Republicans are the ones currently in power, and in all three branches of government no less. They're the ones who have "done to us lately".

        If Democratic party members held the White House and Senate, and the DNC had been held in a Republican stronghold,with the date pushed back to try and take political advantage of the upcoming anniversary of a national tragedy that happened there, you would probably see a similar sized protest.

        • by randyest (589159) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:07PM (#10104083) Homepage
          Good points there. There is, however, one other very important reason why the DNC apparently wasn't protested as much as the RNC, perhaps the most important reason:

          Democrats kept protestors in a cage [vulnwatch.org] called the "Free-Speech Zone" during the DNC. The RNC isn't limiting free speech to a cage.

          Republicans were allowed no such convenience since anti-Republican protestors claimed a law prohibits such caging of dissenters. I bet they'd use it if they could. Having all your vocal opposition locked up in a barbed wire cage makes it much less of an annoyance.

          Interestingly, google searches of both the web and the news didn't provide any immediate proof that the RNC can't use the cages, or that DNC organizers apparently violated the law that prevents the RNC from using cages. This [cnn.com] is the only reference to the issue I found, and it leaves out a lot of info, but it's worth a read. And, anyone in NYC can confirm that, indeed, there are no cages in use as there were at the DNC. At the RNC protesters mostly go wherever they want except for some excluded areas, where at the DNC protestors had to stay in a small caged area. A "free speech zone."

          Moreover, the relative ugliness and chaos of the RNC protestors are helping Bush get re-elected, IMHO. When footage of what the "anti-Bush" nuts are shown on the nightly news in middle America, those swing states are more likely to go Bush because they tend to value niceness and fear chaos. Of course, we know the stuff that will be shown don't represent the majority of the anti-Bush people, but when Ma and Pa Jones see the clip I saw last night of the guy holding the Kerry sign punch the Bush-sign guy in the face, they're going to associate Kerry with these nuts, and it will hurt him in the campaign.

          So maybe the RNC is glad they're not allowed to cage protestors, so the protestors can run wild and the wildest of them will be on the news holding a Kerry sign while acting like a nincompoop. Hmmm, are they that smart?
          • by Fear the Clam (230933) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @07:17PM (#10105146)
            Democrats kept protestors in a cage called the "Free-Speech Zone" during the DNC. The RNC isn't limiting free speech to a cage.

            Actually, the cage (which I agree, was complete bullshit) was for protesters who wanted to be right next to the Fleet Center. I took a walk through there on Wednesday morning, and aside from the banners hung on the walls, the only person protesting was a guy yelling into a microphone that there wasn't enough Jesus in our government, we were all going to Hell, and it was all the fault of the Jews.

            There were protesters freely gathered on the Common, playing music, chanting and selling stuff, as well a cool demonstration of how to turn a VW to run on biodiesel. Mind you, there weren't many people there.

            My take on the subject is that while lots of those folks prefer Nader or one of that crowd to win, they see that Kerry is a more realistic option this time. The results of Nader votes in 2000 did a lot to kill "I'll vote for who is I think is best in a vacuum, rather than settle for who's best realistically" thinking.
    • Do you really think that this will "silence dissent"? Are you really that daft?

      There are still thousands (tens of thousands?, hundreds of thousands?) of protesters in NYC whining about everything under the sun.

      This was on jerkoff that got busted for vandalism. Maybe it doesn't meet the standard, maybe it does, let that come out in the general trial. There are still tons of people protesting around town. Maybe they won't paint stuff on the streets so they don't have to all go to jail.

      We still allow po
  • Fine line (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thedogcow (694111) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:14PM (#10102972)
    There is a fine line between protest and vandalism. The stuff comes off with water so I don't see how this is effecting anything.

    I also have a different attitude in general towards what other people would call vandalism. I've been through the Bronx which has its fair share of "paintings" on walls (most of which is not environmentally friendly like what the biker is using), and I don't call it vandalism but I call it art. Most of these paintings are not banal expression like "fuck you" but rather creative expression and political/social commentary.... much like what Mr. Kinberg is doing.
  • by peculiarmethod (301094) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:14PM (#10102976) Journal
    tried takin it to the streets.. protesting spam anyway.. by sending this to the bike. Was too late. *sigh*

    I do not want your MLMs;
    I don't want to see nude teenage femmes.
    I do not want psychic advice,
    So there's no need to mail me thrice.
    I do not like New Jerseyan swearing,
    And I don't want the panties you're wearing.
    I do not want your Asian chicks;
    I don't care about your lame stock picks.
    I do not want to see Pam's bod,
    Don't care about your views on God.
    I don't want calling cards prepaid,
    Nor Herbalife's new diet aid.
    So, Dave Rhodes, lawyers Seigel and Canter,
    And the "I am so great" ranter,
    And all you others who have no name--
    Whether small-time or of nanae fame:
    I do not want to sound too crass,
    But I think someone should kick your /dev/null.

  • Hey, cool (Score:5, Funny)

    by dirtsurfer (595452) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:15PM (#10102983) Journal
    Let's all send him messages like, "ONE WAY" and "RIGHT TURN ONLY"

    That should make NYC streets even more interesting than usual for a while. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:15PM (#10102985)
    Great, here come the Slashdot lawyers out of the woodwork. We're sure to be blessed with some rock-solid legal advice now.

    I don't recall such activism around the Democratic national convention - leave the freaking Republicans to have their week too.
  • by Helpadingoatemybaby (629248) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:22PM (#10103048)
    From the article:

    When Kinberg showed the police sergeant how the bicycle used a non-permanent spray chalk, the sergeant seemed to agree that it wasn't defacement, at which point Kinberg asked, "am I free to go?" After conferring about it, officers decided to call superiors, then came back moments later to place Kinberg under arrest and confiscate the bicycle.

    Kinberg cooperated fully with the officers as he was being handcuffed, only asking, "can I ask what I'm being arrested for?" to which no one provided an answer. As of 11:00 PM Saturday evening, he was still in custody without being charged with anything.

    I've noticed that dissent is becoming less and less tolerated. If you're not for us, you're against us. It's fairly clear that water soluble chalk will not meet the minimum requirements for "vandalism" and you can see above that even the arresting officer had doubts about this arrest.

    The changes are coming fast and furiously. The DMCA, restrictions on freedom of speech. Has anyone else that by contrast to the 1960's we don't need to protest FOR change, at this point we need to protest to prevent these weekly changes that are intended to reduce our rights?

    Think about it. This is a major difference. We're on the defensive. That cannot be a good sign.

  • It seems down... (Score:4, Informative)

    by anglete (782289) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:24PM (#10103063)
    Here's that coral cache thing [nyud.net]

    Interesting that he's being charged with defacement of public property. We'll see how long it takes to release him. His goal of printing messages during the republican convention may not happen. Was that intentional on the superiors part?

    Cool idea, but if it was widespread, i think i would agree that its defacement. If there were messages everywhere on the ground, would you still consider it benign? As it is though, one person on one bike, i don't think it's defacement.

    What to me is really insulting is that companies can get away with printing their messages in the sky via those cloud making airplanes. When superbowl was here in san diego, they wrote heineken in the atmosphere to be read at least 20 square miles away from the stadium. I would rather not see my beautiful southern californian sky poluted by such nonsense that nobody can erase. At least this fellow uses chalk that can be removed pretty easily.
  • by jx100 (453615) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:26PM (#10103079)
    Torrent [open4all.info] of the arrest.
  • by dbc001 (541033) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:29PM (#10103104)
    It looks like NYC is gonna get wild this week. Please post as many photos and first-hand accounts as possible. Any helpful or relevant links would be greatly appreciated. Let's just hope nobody gets hurt!

    http://www.letspaniclater.com/ [letspaniclater.com]

    http://www.rncnotwelcome.org/ [rncnotwelcome.org]
    http://www.counterconvention.org/ [counterconvention.org]
  • I want one! (Score:4, Funny)

    by digitac (24581) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:52PM (#10103255) Homepage
    Forget that this guy got arrseted. I want one..for my car! Finally you can send a message to the guy behind you..

    !!!
    OFF
    BACK

    3210
    554-
    (555)
    me
    Call

    And of course: /. ::Digitac
  • by Noksagt (69097) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:54PM (#10103271) Homepage
    bicycle can print text messages sent from web users directly onto the streets of Manhattan in
    water-soluble chalk
    Bush supports really dropped the ball on this one. They could have made their own bikes to go around spreading water on everything. Heck, they could have just rented a Zamboni machine! Not only would they wipe out this guy's statements, but they could make claims about cleaning up the streets of NYC.

    Whoever went NYPD Blue on this guy should have thought a little. I have seen more offensive and more permanent "Public Art" in the City & nothing was done. This could easily blow up in their faces--persecuting someone who was conscientious enough to choose an instantly reomovable media to express tame political views in. They should have at least just let the guy off with a warning.
    When Kinberg showed the police sergeant how the bicycle used a non-permanent spray chalk, the sergeant seemed to agree that it wasn't defacement, at which point Kinberg asked, "am I free to go?" After conferring about it, officers decided to call superiors, then came back moments later to place Kinberg under arrest and confiscate the bicycle.
    Great--not even a sergeant seems to know the law well enough, but they still arrest him.
  • Civil Disobedience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by freejung (624389) * <webmaster@freenaturepictures.com> on Sunday August 29, 2004 @01:57PM (#10103287) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad he got arrested. And this is coming from somebody who not only supports his message and his methods, but thinks he should have done it in permanent marker all over the place, including on private property.

    What's the point of civil disobedience if you don't get arrested for it? The whole idea is to get arrested to get publicity for your message and to put a stress on the system. Would any of us have heard of this if he hadn't been arrested? If he's really committed to his cause, spending a few nights in jail should be a small price to pay for this kind of publicity.

    • by ethan0 (746390) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @02:27PM (#10103477)
      The concept of civil disobedience isn't to randomly break laws. If you deface someone else's property, you're not just doing something illegal, you're being an asshole. The point of civil disobedience is to change laws that you think are unjust, by disobeying them publicly and making your reasons known. This wasn't intended to break any laws nor to protest any laws, it was simply to spread this guy's opinion. This has nothing to do with civil disobedience at all.
  • by Noksagt (69097) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @02:10PM (#10103382) Homepage
    Joshua Kinberg, creator of Bikes Against Bush, was arrested in NYC for vandalism.
    No he wasn't:
    Kinberg cooperated fully with the officers as he was being handcuffed, only asking, "can I ask what I'm being arrested for?" to which no one provided an answer. As of 11:00 PM Saturday evening, he was still in custody without being charged with anything.
  • by LibrePensador (668335) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @02:31PM (#10103509) Journal
    First of all, this guy does no permanent damage to public property.

    Secondly, while not all graffiti is equally defensible, I think of it as a valuable form of expression. And the problem is that as with many other free speech issues, you cannot protect the positive uses while penalizing the negative ones. Hear me out, before you jump the gun.

    See, there are times when the appropriation of public space is the only way to speak because the state or its corporate allies controls all legal -or the most effective- forms of communication. This isn't as true in the United States, although the large media conglomerates do exercise a great deal of control over what he hear and listen. Thankfully, we have the internet still left.

    Yet, as surprising as that may be to some Slashdotters, a piece of wall is an easiser medium to master than a computer and thinking otherwise only shows how out of touch some of you may be with some very poor communities in the United States where internet access does not exist nor do the skills to use a computer are common (I am working on fixing both, by the way).

    Moreover, graffiti and leafletting have both played a crucial role in breaking the fear that grips societies in authoritarian regimes. In dictatorships where people often die for less than painting graffiti on the wall, a piece of political graffiti can serve to end the sense of isolation caused by fear that often renders people unable to seek other ways to overthrow the military junta.

    If you are interested in history, read about how graffiti was used against the dictatorships of the southern cone in Latin America in the late 1970s and 1980s.

    The ethymological origin of the word is also very telling:

    Graffiti Graf*fi"ti, n. pl. It., pl. of graffito scratched Inscriptions, figure drawings, etc., found on the walls of ancient sepulchers or ruins, as in the Catacombs, or at Pompeii.
  • by mrchaotica (681592) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @02:42PM (#10103560)
    From his website:
    The performance will be "live" during each day of the Republican National Convention, from August 30 to September 2, 2004.

    So he gets arrested right before the "live" event! Considering that he wasn't arrested immediately, but rather a few hours later, one wonders if some higher-up checked his website...
  • by edb (87448) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @06:30PM (#10104894)
    Ron Reagon (son of Ronald) was the MSNBC correspondent interviewing Joshua about the arrest, jailing, and subsequent release.

    It was pointed out that the police claimed that they had watched him (Joshua) spray-painting the sidewalk with grafitti, but Ron (the interviewer) and Joshua (arrestee) knew that was false. The marks the police saw were put down the day before, not while the police were watching.

    By the time Joshua and Ron got back to the scene of the crime today for the followup story, the chalk from the previous day was already gone.

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