Mayors Collude, Deny the Freedom of the Press While Destroying Evidence and Media Equipment

A dump truck driving away with people's belongings. All rights to NJ.com/Star-Ledger

Protesters are no longer allowed to camp at Zuccotti Park. This message was sent to the protesters loud and clear Tuesday morning. At 5:38 p.m., a judge ordered that the city has the right to enforce rules against having camp gear in the park.

Several reporters and photographers for prominent papers were arrested last night as Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD moved in on Zuccotti Park during the late hours of the night (2 a.m. Tuesday morning) to shut the Occupy Wall Street protest down. The state brought bulldozers and dump trucks as they trashed camps and threw away people’s belongings after initially telling protesters they could return after a routine sweep of the area. Protesters and journalists said they were not allowed to re-enter the camp to get their belongings.

This was an attempt to destroy any and all evidence accumulated by protesters and reporters for the months that this protest has been happening. The police state destroyed a lot of evidence and media equipment; Bernie Madoff style.

RT Reporter Marina Portnaya said she asked personnel who looked like sanitation workers who they were. They did not respond to her. This suggests they may have been hired by the owners of the privately-owned, public land. But were the private owners of Zuccotti Park paid-off by Mayor Bloomberg and the city to push for the eviction of the protesters?

Journalists arriving to cover the scene said the police kept them several blocks away from Zuccotti Park. Journalists who were already in or near Zuccotti Park said they were told by police that they couldn’t stand in the same place to report the scene.

Mayor Bloomberg said that he kept the press from reporting the scene and doing their job because he wanted to keep them out of harm’s way. Well that’s funny because American war correspondents don’t avoid going into dangerous countries and brutal regimes just because it’s dangerous. Putting yourself in “harm’s way” in order to get the story is the whole point of being a journalist. If journalists are not allowed to be in harm’s way, then they can’t report on murders, suicides, terrorist attacks, car crashes, car chases and they can no longer be war correspondents. Mayor Bloomberg’s excuse for having a media blackout and eliminating the fourth estate’s power is unconstitutional and it sets a precedent for other mayors who have been colluding on ways to bring down the protests. After Oakland Mayor Quan admitted to working with other mayors, mayors around the country began denying this was the case. I hope other mayors don’t include arresting and intimidating the press because it’s not a good look for this country. It makes us look weak, scared, corrupt, insane and un-American. Where and what time are we living in these days? This doesn’t look like the America I grew up loving. Are we living in Iran or Somalia?

The NYPD reported that these three journalists were in a church-owned park that had been illegally unlocked by protesters. NYPD said the journalists were in violation of the law because they were trespassing private property. These were the journalists arrested near or in the church’s park:

  • Reporter Karen Matthews of the Associated Press
  • Photographer Seth Wenig of the Associated Press
  • Reporter Matthew Lysiak of the Daily News

Julie Walker, a freelance radio journalist who works for AP on the weekends and NPR at other times was arrested several blocks north of Zuccotti Park on disorderly conduct charges. She said,

“I told them I’m a reporter. I had my recorder on before he ripped it out of my hand.”

She then added that after she asked for the police officer’s name and badge identification. They then proceeded to arrest her.

Doug Higginbotham, a freelance video journalist working for TV New Zealand, was also arrested early Tuesday morning. He said he was on top of a phone booth trying to get a better picture of the chaos when police told him to get down. After that, they handcuffed him and according to Higginbotham, tore his media badge from his chest.

Two more journalists were arrested. They were:

  • News Editor Patrick Hedlund of DNAInfo.com
  • Freelance Photographer Paul Lomax of DNAInfo.com
Patrick Hedlund being arrested. All rights to DNAInfo.com

Both Hedlund and Lomax had NYPD-issued press credentials.

To the NYPD’s credit, all of the journalists were released after a couple of hours of being detained. Are they not merciful?! But this brings up a bigger issue, however. If the journalists were in the wrong by breaking the law, why were they released hours later? The answer is obvious: The police state we are all a part of are using intimidation tactics. They don’t want reporters reporting what is actually happening because the state doesn’t want to be exposed for beating protesters, breaking the law and using military weapons and tactics on protesters who are, for the most part, peaceful.

It’s ironic the state doesn’t want to break the law when they are obviously ignoring the Constitution. This sounds like something a fascist regime would do: Ignore the rule of law because a). We are at war or b). Because things are too dangerous. If local, city, state, and national executives are allowed to break the law when things get a little bit complicated, then what’s the point of having laws to begin with? Some of these “leaders” that run our country are dictators. They are not mayors, governors or presidents.

Welcome to America, the land of the free, unless you speak out against corruption and those with power.

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