As thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters took to the streets on Thursday, journalists once again found themselves a target of police violence and arrests.
Reporters took to Twitter and, in some cases, to television to spread the word of the heavy hand police were using against them. It appeared to be a repeat of a similar scene two days earlier, when journalists were roughed up and arrested as the NYPD forcibly cleared the Occupy Wall Street encampment in lower Manhattan.
Lucy Kafanov, a reporter for the RT television network, said she was hit with a police baton while trying to film the protests. She told another reporter for her network that she had her press credentials clearly visible, but was still struck. She also said that she witnessed another reporter from the IndyMedia network being “slammed against the wall” and arrested.
“It does not seem police are making a distinction between press and protesters,” she said. Other journalists reported similar incidents.
“Saw NYPD hitting a man with a nightstick. Tried to take a picture but police grabbed me and shoved me across the street,” DNAInfo editor Julie Shapiro tweeted. “The NYPD just slammed a barricade into a photographer,” another report read.
The Daily Caller also said that two of its reporters were “assaulted” with batons.
Josh Stearns, a member of media reform group Free Press who has been tracking the arrests of journalists at Occupy movements, estimates that 26 have been arrested in total since the protests began two months ago. On Thursday, that number looked set to grow substantially, as reports of arrests poured in. Baltimore reporter Ryan Harvey and In These Times writer J.A. Meyerson — were reportedly arrested.
In addition, a picture said to be of Keith Gessen, editor of n+1 magazine, being held on the ground by police was tweeted. Gessen and two other journalists were later said to have been arrested, and video footage emerged of Gessen being taken away by police. His case was somewhat different than the others, though, since he appeared to be participating in civil disobedience. He later made a statement to a local ABC station explaining why he had participated in the protests.
As New York City police cleared the Occupy Wall Street campsite in Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning, many journalists were blocked from observing and interviewing protesters. Some called it a “media blackout” and said in interviews that they believed that the police efforts were a deliberate attempt to tamp down coverage of the operation.
The city blog Gothamist put it this way: “The NYPD Didn’t Want You To See Occupy Wall Street Get Evicted.”
As a result, much of the early video of the police operation was from the vantage point of the protesters. Videos that were live-streamed on the Web and uploaded to YouTube were picked up by television networks and broadcast on Tuesday morning.
At a news conference after the park was cleared Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the police behavior, saying that the media was kept away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.”
Some members of the media said they were shoved by the police. As the police approached the park they did not distinguish between protesters and members of the press, said Lindsey Christ, a reporter for NY1, a local cable news channel. “Those 20 minutes were some of the scariest of my life,” she said.
Ms. Christ said that police officers took a New York Post reporter standing near her and “threw him in a choke-hold.”
That reporter and two photographers with him declined to speak on the record because they are freelance workers and lack some of the job protections of full-time employees. But as they sipped coffee on Tuesday morning in Foley Square, where some of the protesters had regrouped, they expressed surprise at the extent of what they described as police suppression of the press.
What are your limits, America? You’ve largely looked the other way while peaceful protesters are cleared out across the country under the guise of “order” and “cleanliness,” even when those who come in to “keep the peace” end up creating a huge mess and violation of civil order.
Will you now look the other way as freedom of the press is done away with? Will you now ignore the fact that, in even trying to report on the suppression of civil liberties, you will be targeted by the police state?
What will it take?
Three news items from the past 24 hours: