Monday, 30 January 2012

So much for the First Amendment

Hello, Occupy Oakland Move-In Day (22 of 31)
A friend posted on Facebook the story of another journalist arrested while covering the Occupy protests. This time it happened in Oakland over the weekend:
   On Saturday, Occupy Oakland re-entered the national spotlight during a day-long effort to take over an empty building and transform it into a social center. Oakland police thwarted the efforts, arresting more than 400 people in the process, primarily during a mass nighttime arrest outside a downtown YMCA. That number included at least six journalists, myself included, in direct violation of OPD media relations policy that states "media shall never be targeted for dispersal or enforcement action because of their status."
As soon as it became clear that I would be kettled with the protesters, I displayed my press credentials to a line of officers and asked where to stand to avoid arrest. In past protests, the technique always proved successful. But this time, no officer said a word. One pointed back in the direction of the protesters, refusing to let me leave. Another issued a notice that everyone in the area was under arrest.
I wound up in a back corner of the space between the YMCA and a neighboring building, where I met Vivian Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle and Kristin Hanes of KGO Radio. After it became clear that we would probably have to wait for hours there as police arrested hundreds of people packed tightly in front of us, we maneuvered our way to the front of the kettle to display our press credentials once more.
When Hanes displayed hers, an officer shook his head. "That's not an Oakland pass," he told her. "You're getting arrested." (She had a press pass issued by San Francisco, but not Oakland, police.) Another officer rejected my credentials, and I began interviewing soon-to-be-arrested protesters standing nearby. About five minutes later, an officer grabbed my arm and zip-tied me. Around the same time, Ho—who did have official OPD credentials—was also apprehended.
Reporters Without Borders released its annual press freedom index for 2011/2012 and the United States ain't looking so "freedom-y" this year. The arrests and harassment of journalists during the Occupy Wall Street protests caused the U.S. to fall 27 places to a press freedom ranking of 47th in the world. To see a tracking of the journalists who have been arrested (56 so far), check out the list compiled by Josh Stearns. It's totally disgraceful.  

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