While in Bahrain to witness clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was detained when police “pulled” him into their car. Kristof was present at a protest in Sitra, a city outside of Bahrain’s capital of Manama, when riot police began to fire tear gas and broke up the protest. As Kristof tweeted after the police had put him in their car,
“not sure if I’m being detained or protected.”
“Police seem to think this is awkward, holding me in car while they squelch protest. One very nicely offered me water.”
“Boy, if I were them, I’d take my Blackberry.”
“Policeman in my car is cursing protesters. He says twice he has been injured in last 6 months.”
“He says police are not supposed to beat protesters but says sometimes they have to, to restore order.”
“Sr cop arrived and let me go. My videographer, @aellick, was in different police car and also freed.” #Bahrain
“Adam says his camera got hit by tear gas grenade or rubber bullet. Then a cop hit him and the camera, breaking part of it.”
“The blows came after Adam had shouted twice that he was an American journalist.”
After Kristof was released, Bahrain’s Ministry of the Interior tweeted that he had not been arrested but had been seeking police protection. Kristof responded to the Bahraini government’s comment with this tweet:
“I’m fascinated to learn from #Bahrain govt statement that I wasn’t detained but “sought police protection.” #sarcasm
Alkhawaja comments regularly about the ongoing protests against the ruling Sunni monarchy in Bahrain, which crushed pro-democratic protesters in March after mass demonstrations inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Some Bahrainis have been sentenced to death while others including Alkhawaja’s father, human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, have been given life sentences; her husband has also been imprisoned. At the beginning of December, Zainab Alkhawaja blocked a line of police vehicles even as riot police ran past her and tear gas shells fell near her head. The New York Times has interviewed Zainab Alkhawaja about her ongoing rights activism and the role of her Angry Arabiya twitter feed not only to document the ongoing protest movement in Bahrain, but “in keeping her safe.”
Bahraini Government Hires Former Philadelphia, Miami Police Chief
Bahrain is turning to other countries including Pakistan for its police. Via its own Twitter feed, the Ministry of the Interior tweeted on Thursday that it is just about to sign a contract with John Timoney,” an American adviser who was once a senior officer in New York and was later the police chief of Philadelphia and then of Miami:
Given that Bahrain’s police force is regularly deployed to break up protests, American observers were quick to point out that Mr. Timoney was criticized for the forceful way his officers infiltrated protest groups at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000 and used force to break up demonstrations at the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit meeting in Miami in 2003.
Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who covered the Miami protests, wrote later that what became known as Mr. Timoney’s “Miami Model” of crowd control involved the heavy use of concussion grenades, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges to disperse protesters.
The Miami Times also notes that Timoney has traveled around the globe to do nothing less than advise “police forces on how to emulate his force’s tactics.”
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Photo of Kristof by World Economic Forum