Thursday, December 1, 2011

The NYPD, Bloomberg's "My Own Army," Bars Journalists from Occupy Protest

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2011 at 1:43 PM

Occupants in midtown last night (NYT photo)
  • Occupants in midtown last night (NYT photo)
"I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world," New York's mayor and richest citizen, Michael Bloomberg, said at an appearance at MIT yesterday. You may protest: Wait, our city's police force is not an army, nor does it belong to the mayor. Yeah, well.

Last night, Capital NY's Joe Pompeo reports, a number of reporters were barred from access to last night's Occupy protest in Midtown, opposite the president's fundraiser at the Sheraton.

The protestors had been herded and penned into a "free speech zone," (an innovation inspired by the freedom of speech so familiar from American history), and, several reporters say, the cops doing the herding and penning also cut off credentialed journalists from the protest:

After a certain point, no one aside from the roughly 50 protesters confined within the pen's boundaries was being let in, according to several people who were present; nor were any of the assembled demonstrators, to some of their dismay, being let out, witnesses said. The street was likewise blocked off to foot traffic.

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.

Katz was standing nearby.

"One officer actually said I could go into the kettle where the protesters were, but [another] officer grabbed my arm, and then [Harkinson], and said we had to leave the area," Katz told Capital when we reached him shortly after the confrontation.

"Three officers," Katz continued, "including a female officer who gripped her arm around my hip, escorted us a block down to 52nd Street behind a set of barricades. As that was happening, Josh was filming and we both took turns asking the officers why this was happening. They barely spoke but the female officer kept saying she already answered my questions before, which she did not."

Capital contacted NYPD Spokesman Paul Browne for comment via email; in reply, they say, he "wrote only: 'Not so.'" Who're you gonna believe, several professional reporters affiliated with reputable news outlets, or this arrogant two-word blanket denial?!? Huh?!?

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