The NYPD's brutality against Occupy Wall Street protesters last night was – as has been noted here and here – beyond the pale. That brutality extended, once again, to journalists on the scene as officers not only obstructed those wearing press passes, but beat them as well.
Below is a narrative of a police force out of control, told through the Tweets of those journalists who were on the scene, journalists who transitioned from being observers to becoming victims. (Some of these Tweets I found in my own feed, and some of them were compiled by Ben Doernberg.)
BBC reporter Greg Palast:
Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!Palast's photographer Zach Roberts:
Fell down, got trampled by 6 people on top of me, cop hit me on my head with baton, pulled hair hit me again on back. Was yelling press
The Guardian's Ryan Deveraux:
As I tried to cross a street an officer who punched my colleague on #D17 tried to stop me. I showed him my pass. "I don't care," he said.
Freelance reporter Laurie Penny:
Cops attacking people with barricades. Was pushed to ground and my breast grabbed by an NYPD. Bit hurt but am ok.
New York Daily News beat reporter Ciare Trapasso:
Police are out of control shoving #ows protesters and reporters on the ground. Hurt my leg in the scuffle.
Freelancer reporter Michael Tracey (The Nation and Salon):
As I was taking a photo in the park, one officer struck me in the shoulder. cc @jcstearns #M17
Freelance journalist Dustin Slaughter:
I was just grabbed by #NYPD and pulled to Broadway. #NYPD are ordering all press out of the park as they move in. #M17 #OWS
Jason Cherkis of The Huffington Post:Indeed, nothing has changed. The NYPD continues to deny press access to Occupy Wall Street protests, and the brutality against journalists was ratcheted up last night as officers willfully ignored press passes and flailed at journalists who attempted to cover the raid.
so police clear Zuccotti Park without clear pretext, probable cause and deny press access. Nothing has changed.
A fundamental freedom – freedom of the press as granted by the First Amendment – is not only being squelched as Occupy Wall Street threatens the powerful elite, it is being beaten with batons.
The Obama administration has not yet made (to my knowledge) any statements condemning such behavior by police forces across the country, yet as Jake Tapper challenged during a White House press briefing question about the prosecution of whistleblowers, the administration has been quick to praise and defend journalists abroad who report in the face of authoritarian threats:
"You want aggressive journalism abroad, you just don't want it in the United States," Tapper said, referring to (among other things) the administration's invoking of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers.
Part of the narrative of Occupy Wall Street has been the narrative of a press under siege. It is a siege attempting to restrict the flow of information, a siege that eerily echoes authoritarian regimes both past and present.
It is a siege on one of our most checks against government power: the fourth estate.
Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG