"Don't Get in My Face, I Have a Gun:" It's Police vs. Press As NYC Cops Aggressively Scoop Up Tweeters, Videographers
A day of "squidding"--or protesting Goldman Sachs with the "vampire squid" metaphor popularized by writer Matt Taibbi (who loved the event)--brought New York OWSers back out into the streets for a direct action downtown on Monday morning.
After a successful protest at the Goldman headquarters, however, marchers took it back to a Brookfield-owned property, the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center--with a fun flash mob and dance party reminding the company that "owns" the public Zuccotti Park of the occupation's presence in their neighborhood and their spaces.
Once the protesters began chanting and having fun inside the space with its glass walls and palm trees, however, things got dicey. The NYPD had been called on the protesters and acted with aggressive force to protect the 1%.
In a matter of minutes, cops surrounded them, turned off the escalators and began targeting members of both the "credentialed" press and the OWS internal media team. Several prominent OWS twitter accounts went silent as the usual crowd who chronicles these protests and events found themselves subject to arrest.
The most-circulated raw video is below--watch for the aggressive confrontation between the cops and a credentialed NYTimes photographer--and commentary below that.
What does this type of disturbing footage mean about the post-Zuccotti era of press-NYPD relations? It's not good.
There is much to dig into here. Let’s consider what the NYPD is preventing this credentialed photographer from photographing. Police officers had just taken down a known personality from Occupy Wall Street. It is very possible the NYPD targeted him because they knew he was doing a live stream for Occupy Wall Street. Additionally, they were in a piece of real estate owned by Brookfield Properties, the entity which owns Zuccotti Park. Brookfield may not tolerate cameras or these kinds of flash mob actions and NYPD may be carrying out orders for “protection” from Brookfield Properties.
Citizens are also witnessing a full transformation of the journalism profession, where who is and who is not a journalist is increasingly difficult to discern. So, it appears when you watch videos of police violating freedom of the press, they are in some cases not even bothering to ask whether someone has credentials or not. They don’t seem to care and move in to make arrests or obstruct press freedom first and ask questions later.
Meanwhile at Salon, Moly Knefel writes about her brother John, an independent journalist and comedian, getting arrested for tweeting and filming the arrests:
John had been standing near the crowd, taking video. I was about twenty feet from him, and when I looked back in his direction, I saw his blue hood on the ground. I ran towards him and slid to the ground, leaning in between people’s knees to take pictures. John was face down on the ground being handcuffed, his glasses flung across the floor and people screaming, “Stop, stop, he didn’t do anything!”
The situation got worse, she notes, when an officer referred to his gun:
A protester next to me was yelling at the cops, something about free speech or unnecessary force or any number of logical things to say at a time like this, I was too distracted to pay attention. But then, an officer said to him, “Get out of my face. I have a gun, and I don’t need people up in my face like this.”
Knefel points out that despite the cops' targeting of, in her brother's words, the "eyes" at the protests, many more were there to pick up the slack in video like the above and below:
The role independent journalists have played in documenting and disseminating Occupy is one of the things that makes the movement so powerful and unique. After the media blackout during the Zuccotti raid, the significance of citizen photographers and citizen tweeters became even more clear. Today felt like a blatant crackdown on the individuals who were documenting the behavior of the police. But whether it was a tactical decision or a wild coincidence, the police were unable to silence the cacophony of voices. The entire morning was still captured in pictures, in video, in livestreams.
In her wrap-up of the day's actions, Allison Kilkenny also points out what many have been saying, that this kind of extremely aggressive police behavior has been only witnessed whenthe actions are at the doorsteps of the ultra-powerful 1%--and that the cops have been much more lax when the protests go to neglected, poor neighborhoods.
It was strange to see a large police response for such relatively tame acts of civil disobedience, but that's become a theme of Occupy Wall Street. The 30:1 police-to-protester ratio is a familiar theme of these kinds of protests, but only, of course, if the protest target has something to do with the financial district in New York City or major companies' import-export practices. When activists in New York City chose East New York as the site of their protest, very few police officers turned out to monitor the event. Those who did show up allowed protesters to march down the middle of the street, disrupt traffic, and block the roadways outside of homes.