30 journalists have been arrested at the Occupy Wall Street protests including some at the recent police raids on Occupy LA and Occupy Philly. The arrests have occurred in 10 cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Chapel Hill, New York City, Oakland and Richmond.
On Thursday, Free Press delivered a petition with more than 40,000 signatures to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, president of the United States Conference of Mayors. The petition calls on US mayors to protect First Amendment rights and to protect journalists covering the Occupy movement.
Why mayors need to call a halt to such attacks was made all too clear just yesterday night, November 30, in Manhattan. Despite an order from New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly not to (as the Associated Press describes it) “unreasonably interfere with media access during news coverage and warning those who do will be subject to disciplinary action,” journalists trying to report on an Occupy Wall Street protest outside of a Midtown fund-raiser for President Barack Obama were still harassed:
When Josh Harkinson, a New York-based staff writer for Mother Jones, showed up around 9:30 and identified himself to police as a journalist, he was told to leave the area, he said.
Later, he was able to sneak past police and gain access to the protesters along with another journalist, Andrew Katz, who reports for The Brooklyn Ink, a local website produced by Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Harkinson said he again identified himself as a journalist and started interviewing protesters from a spot in front of the barricade. That’s when an officer grabbed him and physically escorted him away from the scene, he said.
“It wasn’t violent, but he pushed me out,” Harkinson said.
The protesters were limited to a “free-speech zone” marked by police barricades near the Obama event; journalists were not allowed anywhere near it without police stepping in. MSNBC’s Meg Robertson said that, on identifying herself as a member of the press, the NYPD “would not let [her] close to the penned in area.”
Journalists’ reporting about the Occupy protests has been vital, to say the least. US mayors and authorities are treading into dangerous waters if they think they can limit what gets told about the Occupy movement, about what is going on in their own cities and community — if they think they can censor what people know.
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