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The Disappeared

The cops took his high-tech protest bike and left him with lingering paranoia.

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The recent revelations of the NYPD’s disturbingly thorough black-ops preparations against protesters at the 2004 Republican convention brought Joshua Kinberg back into the limelight. He’d rigged up a bike—or, as the NYPD called it, a “quick vehicle of escape”—that could receive slogans via cell phone, then spray them on the ground in chalk. He was arrested pre-convention while showing off the bike to MSNBC cameras. Kinberg, 28, spoke to Tim Murphy from San Francisco, where he now lives.

Were you surprised to find out you’d been spied on?
No, because the arrest felt orchestrated.

How did it work?
A cell phone received text messages from visitors to my Website. A program that I’d written sent the message to a printing apparatus. It took about five to six months to build and cost $5,000.

And it was your Parsons thesis. What grade did you get?
I don’t remember. Either an A or a B-plus. A lot of my instructors didn’t like it. But Parsons showed it in their front window.

So what was being arrested like?
The Bomb Squad dealt with me. They were like, “You built this? You’re a genius, but you shouldn’t be doing this.” I was held for 24 hours.

And they held your technology for six months.
I finally found it in a pile behind a desk in the D.A.’s office. They lost the bike.

Has it left you worried about being watched by the government?
There are times when my cell phone makes weird clicking noises.

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.


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