Journalists have been increasingly targeted at Occupy protests, especially during police operations to evict occupations. The eviction of Occupy Wall Street featured a number of egregious incidents, where NYPD not only did not allow the press to cover the eviction but arrested reporters and photographers for being on the scene. In fact, the day was the worst day for members of the press since Occupy Wall Street began.
An NYPD inspector took a press badge from an NBC4 reporter. Only credentialed press were permitted to stand on the sidewalk in front of Zuccotti. However, CNN’s Poppy Harlow reported via Twitter the police were not letting press through to Occupy Wall Street protesters. According to New York Observer reporter Hunter Walker, CNBC, NBC, CBS, Wall Street Journal and Reuters reporters were all blocked from viewing the raid.
The air space over Zuccotti Park (which the occupiers renamed Liberty Square) was closed to all news helicopters. Both the NBC and CBS news choppers were grounded.
Journalists were shoved around for being present. A few reporters and photographers were even thrown to the ground.
AP reporter Karen Matthews and AP photographer Set Wenig were arrested. New York Daily News Matthew Lysiak was arrested. Jared Malsin, a reporter for the Local East Village, was arrested, even though he showed his press credentials. NPR freelancer Julie Walker was arrested.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg downplayed or outright ignored the instances of press suppression. He contended the press was kept from the park area to “prevent a situation from getting worse” and to protect the press. Bloomberg celebrated the “professionalism” shown by the NYPD during the raid.
We Are Change’s Luke Rudkowski recorded video of how the police were handling the press. Rudkowski, himself, had press credentials and was kicked out of the park. He was moved to another area and then told yet again that he could not be standing there to shoot video. After being relocated once more, he was then herded behind barricades, where reporters and photographers were told they could stand. The next clips featured show police shoving press into parked police vehicles. A couple journalists who appear in the video are arrested as well.
The Society of Professional Journalists called for charges to be dropped against all reporters that had been arrested, including reporters in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Atlanta, Nashville, Milwaukee and Richmond, Virginia.
This is how the press was handled yesterday by the “professional” NYPD. They “professionally” helped Bloomberg ensure there was a minimal amount of video released of the revolting scene of police in riot gear tearing down an encampment that had given hope to so many over the past two months. They “professionally” punched and sometimes hit occupiers with batons. They “professionally” obstructed occupiers from returning to the park after a temporary restraining order had been obtained and then, when the park re-opened, they set up security checks to invade the privacy of occupiers that have not been violent thus far.
The press were so repressed that the people who are supposed to cover the story became the story, which is what Bloomberg likely preferred happen.
The repression of press freedom is but a symptom of the militarization of police. The safety of reporters and photographers can no longer can be guaranteed by law enforcement men and women, who wield weaponry against peaceful assemblies suddenly deemed unlawful. They are, therefore, asked to embed. They are offered “tours” from police of the scene of eviction before or after but of course never during. They are forced to cover scenes from the perspective of forces being wielded by power. They report what the state wants or will permit them to report and, if they do not do so, they face forceful removal or even arrests.
Such treatment of the press and anyone who has a camera reminds everyone of the power of the Occupy movement. It reminds citizens the movement that continues to escalate has the potential to truly create real and lasting change. The state would not use force in this manner if the powerful did not fear the possibility of this actually forcing the power structure to make adjustments.
What will be changed exactly is unknown, but the specifics are irrelevant. If they continue to stay the course and face down the authoritarianism of the state, they will eventually succeed in achieving some semblance of economic equality and justice in America.