Is America a Free Speech Zone?

Apparently not.

I just read an article on Wired.com, “NYPD Intellligence Op Targets Dot-Matrix Graffiti Bike.” The article provides background information about a bicycle built by Joshua Kinberg which uses computer technology to spray dot-matrix characters in water-soluable chalk on pavement as he rides. This same bicycle was featured on a number of popular Web sites, as well as Popular Science magazine.

Kinberg, a proponent of our First Amendment right to free speech, had planned to use the bike to spray messages around the streets of New York during the 2004 Republican National Convention. As reported in the article:

Though they’d never seen him use the bike, the police arrested Kinberg on criminal mischief charges prior to the convention start, during an interview on Broadway Avenue [sic] with MSNBC’s Ron Reagan. The arrest took place on a spot where, two days earlier, Kinberg had printed out the water-soluble message, “America is a free speech zone” during an interview with MSNBC’s Countdown With Keith Olbermann.

The article goes on to provide information about how the NYPD had been collecting information about Kinberg and his bicycle long before the arrest was made, thus proving a “premeditated desire” to prevent his project.

It’s been more than a year since the arrest. Although Kinberg has gotten his computer and cell phone back — both of which were part of the bicycle’s equipment — the police still have the bicycle. In addition, the NYPD will not release Kinberg’s file, so he has no idea what kind of “information” has been collected about him. (Sounds a bit like Big Brother style secrets to me.)

You can learn more about Kinberg’s efforts on his Web site, Bikes Against Bush.

What do you think?