Mayor Bloomberg seemed smugly happy about his eviction of the sleeping Occupy Wall Street protestors in the middle of the night on Tuesday. He took full responsibility at the press conference that morning, saying,
We have been in constant contact with Brookfield and yesterday they requested that the City assist it in enforcing the no sleeping and camping rules in the park. But make no mistake – the final decision to act was mine.
But if Mayor Bloomberg was so pleased with his large scale police action, including reports of an LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) being deployed in the streets, why didn’t he let any of the press cover it?
There are multiple reports from journalists who experienced violence by the NYPD and were denied access to the operation. Journalists who were corralled and kept away from the scene, and reporters from the New York Times and NPR who were arrested. CBS News has confirmed that the airspace in Lower Manhattan was restricted, making it impossible for images of the operation to be broadcast from the air.
The restriction of press coverage of the OWS raid is one of the most unsettling revelations to come out of the NYPD’s operation of overwhelming militarized force. Initial reports that tear gas was used on the protestors hasn’t been confirmed, presumably because no one was allowed to cover it and anyone that was tear gassed is still sitting in jail. The press in Lower Manhattan were restricted on Tuesday more than in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.
With press censorship systematic during the NYPD raid journalists set up #mediablackout on twitter to spread instances of repression and censorship by police officers. One photographer was shoved away when he tried to photograph a protestor being led to an ambulance on a stretcher.
Bloomberg later said that there weren’t any serious injuries. But what happened to the guy on the stretcher? And what about City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who was arrested and last seen bleeding from the head? I suppose Mayor Bloomberg didn’t consider his injuries “serious” enough.
According to Bloomberg press were kept from covering the raid out of fear for their safety, but does that mean reporters are safer in a war zone than they are in one of the riches areas of Manhattan? And what does that say about the CBS news helicopter? It’s completely false to imply that covering the NYPD using military tactics on peaceful civilians is a danger to journalists. Bloomberg violated the First Amendment and stifled freedom of the press in the name of state secrecy and government repression. New York was a police state on Tuesday. We need to remind King Bloomberg that New York isn’t in Syria. The only danger on Tuesday was the power elites silencing the truth, then covering it up with the thinnest of veiled excuses.