New York Police Department officers arrested seventeen people at an Occupy Wall Street flash mob action in Brookfield Properties’ Winter Garden yesterday. Those seventeen people each have something in common: they all are somehow involved with media. At the action, they were taking photos, video and tweeting out updates on the action. And, now, more than thirty-six hours later, they have finally been released from jail.
The Occupy 17, as they are being referred to on Twitter, will have plenty to say when they get out. In the meantime, audio recently posted by Occupy Info that was recorded hours ago provides a first glimpse into what those arrested have been experiencing in jail.
From 100 Center Street, Justin Wedes, a well-known face of Occupy Wall Street who was live streaming the flash mob action, describes being excited a couple hours ago because they thought they would finally see a judge.
Wedes finds out for the first time that there is video of his arrest. One can only imagine, after all Wedes has been through, how relieved he is to know that people were able to see what he experienced. He says on his arrest:
I was hurt. I was pretty roughed up. My right wrist was pretty lacerated. It was bleeding. They had to give me medical care. Still have a lot of numbness in my thumb. I was pretty roughed up. And in fact I really wasn’t looking for any trouble yesterday. I was trying to get out of the place. I had a laptop in my hand. I was just moving to pack up my stuff and get out when I was targeted. And so, I wasn’t expecting to spend the next couple days in the Tombs.
The group, he notes, has been working to stay upbeat. He adds the cops gave them McDonald’s and they have been talking to both nice cops and bad cops. Plus, the group spotted an Occupy Wall Street sticker in one of the cells. And they have been talking to “99 percenters” in the cell with them about social justice, income inequality and why they are occupying.
On his laptop, which he was using to live stream, he says he does not know who has it right now. (In the video, he can be seen handing it off quickly to someone as he is arrested.) He explains all equipment has been “vouchered.” Some of the equipment has been returned, some has been held as “evidence.” SD cards were taken out of cameras. The videographers and photographers are worried about their equipment (one imagines they probably fear NYPD have wiped their equipment of all footage and photos from the action).
John Knefel, who is a journalist and a FAIR media intern, was arrested while filming the action with his iPhone. He had also been tweeting the action. Knefel describes his arrest:
A member of the NYPD grabbed my arm and threw me to the ground as I was filming, very clearly, in my opinion because I was filming. That was sort of how it began and from there we were put in pretty tight cuffs. I was actually the last person released from the riot cuffs at about 3:30 pm. So, I was in the riot cuffs from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm. I don’t have any sort of like tingling nerve damage but my wrists are definitely sore and tender after that.
Lorenzo, who was livestreaming on OWSNYC, was arrested after being identified by a white-shirted officer. He was walking when police pointed out a spot where he should go. The white-shirted officer than began pointing and saying that’s the one we want. Take him, take him, the officer said.
When Lorenzo tried to hand off his equipment to someone he recognized nearby, a white-shirted officer stopped him and said, no, you’re not getting that back. I’m going to make sure you don’t get that back for six months.
At the 7th Precinct, Lorenzo adds, they “tried to voucher everything.” Everything that was for the livestream “they made sure to keep.” He was told he could go back and get it.
Lorenzo concludes, “They had plans for us from the start and started identifying us the occupiers and it seemed like the process was very slowed down for us.”
There is absolutely no reasonable justification for the seventeen being in jail as long as they were held before seeing a judge. Lorenzo reports others arrested were brought in and “instantly fingerprinted.” Meanwhile, the seventeen “sat there, sat there and sat there.” They got there at 11:30 am. There were people who entered their cell and were fingerprinted and moved on. They would be asked, “Are these occupiers?” And when the cops figured out who they were, it just seemed like, according to Lorenzo, they moved on to others and slowed the process down for them intentionally.
And, Lorenzo reports cell mates have been shocked at how long the seventeen have been held and what they’ve been charged with and how they have not seen a judge yet. What they are going through is not normal.
What Knefel has to say on how the seventeen have been treated further affirms this suspicion that the seventeen were targeted. He says early in the morning when they were moved from the 7th Precinct they were put in a “sort-of half chain gang style in rows of two with our one hand all chained together along a line. It sort of made moving like we were pallbearers. Sometimes it felt we were kind of dragging a sled all of us in a line.”
He says they were marched around very slowly from “one station to another.” They would stop at each point, un-handcuff one person and then that person would go in.
Paul Sullivan was locked up with all the Occupy Wall Street media people too. Like others, he says the seventeen were “targeted deliberately yesterday morning.”
It is his first time being arrested:
It’s a new experience to me. I’m going through fear but also seeing a new world, seeing a new place I’ve never experienced before. It’s really illuminating in ways it’s bad that I hadn’t seen before and then in ways it’s not so terrible, how it’s human inside here. These are just people.
Nick, who is also with livestream and was arrested, says he shares a “similar story.” He describes the importance of livestreamers:
I think it’s very important that other livestream teams around the country realize that in the midst of livestreaming these events that sometimes you just have to put yourself out there to get arrested in order to let people see what’s really going on. A lot of the mainstream media doesn’t cover the events that we do and it’s very important that livestream gets it out there.
The seventeen are now free. They all will be telling their stories over the next few days. More will be heard that further suggests the NYPD was going after independent journalists and citizen media makers. But, make no mistake: they will not be intimidated. They will be at the next action with two or three more people, who were radicalized by the way NYPD handled independent media on Monday. Those people will be there streaming video or sending tweets because they know how important it is to be present to capture the next incident involving the NYPD violating freedom of assembly, freedom of speech or press freedom. They know one more set of eyes will make it harder for the NYPD to criminalize independent journalists.
*In case you missed it, here is video of arrests at the World Financial Center on Monday:
Following their release last night, the Occupy 17 went out for a Chinese food dinner. They streamed their dinner live:
Some of what was shared:
And Molly Knefel tweeted following the release: