I've generally been pretty supportive of the police, viewing them as fellow public workers and members of the same class - ergo - the 99%. But since Occupy Wall Street a switch seems to have been turned on for all too many cops who seem to take the Occupy movement as a personal affront. I understand as members of a paramilitary organization you have to follow orders. But when you do so with relish and glee that takes it to another place.
Now we are not just talking about how they treat protesters, We are talking about attempts to control the coverage by the press which just might document some of the transgressions that are taking place. I know of one guy who has been arrested twice - both times (luckily) on tape despite police attempts to stop journalists from documenting the story. Now this is a slight smallish guy who was using a cell phone to film and was beset upon but a load of police bullies.
I had my own minor wrestling match with some of the overwhelming security at the Dec. 14 PEP meeting where the press was more hassled than I've seen in almost a decade of covering PEP meetings. I was standing inside a white square for the press but leaving when there was something to cover in the auditorium and was continually warned, even threatened with being ordered to leave. At one point I was standing in the box when incredulously 2 security guys came out and penned me in. There was a look of intense satisfaction on their faces. The enemy was vanquished.
I heard one female cop say after people walked out, "Now they'll engage in civil disobedience outside" when nothing of the sort was occurring. I turned the camera on her and she walked away.
Since this was a PEP meeting I felt safe to photograph the cops, which seems to make many of them extremely nervous. After all, as NYC teacher Brian Jones said, "What public body has to meet to talk about our schools under armed guard....maybe some of that budget can be shifted over. No matter how many police you bring here that's a sign of your unpopularity."
Here is a video compilation I made to demonstrate the extent of police presence at the Dec. 14 PEP meeting including some of my interactions: http://youtu.be/xa-OQGuMXhI
The NYC police seem to be doing everything they can to deny people press passes. I have tried for years to get an official press pass as a reporter for The Wave. They give you a phone number to call, which I have numerous times but never get a response.
Here is a frightening account of a journalist who was arrested.
37 Hours in Lock Up
Snatched For Photographing Michael Bloomberg’s Cops
I was taking photographs of the police arresting Occupy Wall Street demonstrators at the December 12 Winter Garden flash mob, which had been organized in solidarity with the port shutdowns on the west coast, when I found myself targeted. “That one,” I heard a voice say in a brutal “New Yawk” accent, realizing that a senior police official was pointing me out over a row of people, “he goes. He goes.”
All at once I felt like a high school quarterback getting blitzed by the 1970s Oakland Raiders. Five police officers, all much larger than my 5’11” and 190 pounds, crashed through a line of protesters, photographers, and Rude Mechanical Orchestra band members and slammed me to the marble floor of the Winter Garden. To my horror, I realized that they had body slammed me down on top of my Nikon D200 and bag of lenses, and, to my even greater horror, I also realized that they went out of their way to interpret my reflexive movements to protect my camera equipment as resisting arrest. “Stop resisting,” one police officer screamed at me as I lay pinned to the floor under 1700 pounds of New York City’s finest, “stop resisting.” “Metal cuffs,” I heard one of them scream. “Metal cuffs. Put the metal cuffs on this fucking guy.” Recovering from the initial shock, I realized that I was handcuffed to a chair with a row of 17 other people, 10 men and 7 women, under arrest for “criminal trespassing” and “resisting arrest.” Almost all of us were members of the Occupy Wall Street media team or independent photojournalists known by the police to be sympathetic to the Occupy movement.
The next 36 hours and 55 minutes would be aggressively impersonal, an attempt to use the tediously bureaucratic day-to-day operation of the criminal justice system to give legitimacy to a snatch and grab operation by Michael Bloomberg’s “personal army designed to cow the independent media into leaving the coverage of Occupy Wall Street to Fox, the New York Post, and The Daily News.
Nobody save maybe a New York Post reporter or three believes that Occupy Wall Street is dangerous. At the very worst, New Yorkers unsympathetic to the Occupy movement see it as an aggressive nuisance, but therein lies the problem. Ray Kelly the crew cutted junior league Stalin who sometimes masquerades as a police commissioner in a democratic state, has milked the terrorist attacks of September 11 over the past decade in a way that makes George W. Bush and Dick Cheney look like amateurs. In his mind, anything that even slightly inconveniences his department, the last defense against two more planes crashing into the skyline of Manhattan, needs to be gotten rid of, even if that thing is the First Amendment.
That New York is indeed a difficult city to govern, that it does have problems with traffic, sanitation, and crowding, problems that have to be managed by a very large and powerful city bureaucracy, means that threats to democratic liberty come not as blatant reaction, but as “necessity,” as the compromises we have to take to keep the overcrowded metropolis humming along. Creeping totalitarianism in what should be the most colorful city in America comes off as strangely gray and banal. Kelly, the police commissioner, whose department can now shoot down planes and conduct intelligence operations overseas, and Bloomberg, the Napoleonic little billionaire who was able to spread around enough cash to buy off all opposition to his stealing a third term in office, have successfully convinced most New Yorkers that they and only they can make the trains run on time.
The propagandists at Fox, the Daily News, and the New York Post have, in turn, seized upon this “necessity” as a way to attack Occupy Wall in the name of the financial industry. The interests of the authoritarian Bloomberg, the Stalinist Kelly, the “1%” and their PR departments in the corporate media converge into at least one important directive. The state, the municipal government of New York City, and the NYPD must hold veto power over who is and who is not a legitimate journalist, who can and who can not take photos at a public event. Ray Kelly, thus, becomes more important than the Dean of the Columbia Journalism School in determining what about Occupy Wall Street is reported on, and what is ignored. Anybody who even passively defies this de facto form of censorship risks getting thrown in jail.
Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/. And make sure to check out the side panel on the right for important bits.