Update: A reporter with the Local posted a video from the Tuesday morning eviction. On camera, he can be heard telling police officers that he is a reporter and has press credentials. He was still arrested.
Zuccotti Park was cleared of Occupy Wall Street protesters overnight by the order of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
While there are plenty of livestream videos and reports on the scene now (see Melissa Bell’s liveblog here), that wasn’t the case a few hours ago. Continuous firsthand media accounts of the process during the park’s clear out were largely lacking. If you read carefully, you can see a 3 1/2 hour gap in the timeline from the AP’s report otherwise fully fleshed out report:
“At about 1 a.m. Tuesday, New York City police handed out notices from Brookfield Office Properties, owner of Zuccotti Park, and the city saying that the park had to be cleared because it had become unsanitary and hazardous.
Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York Police Department, said the park had been cleared by 4:30 a.m. and that about 70 people who’d been inside it had been arrested, including a group who chained themselves together. One person was taken to a hospital for evaluation because of breathing problems.”
That gap is the result of a de facto media blackout conducted by the city government. There is no mention of the media policy in the early morning official release from the mayor’s office, but in response to questioning during his 8 a.m. press conference, Mayor Bloomberg said: “The NYPD routinely keeps some members of the press off to the side during police actions.”
He added that it was done to “provide protection” to the press.
Most reporter’s felt stifled, not protected. Media members started lighting up twitter last night with their observations on being forced out of the Zuccotti park area and their reactions to the blackout.
Mother Jones’s Josh Harkinson recounted being shoved out of the park by police. Reuters’ Anthony DeRosa reported that the CBS newsdesk was told to have its helicopter leave the airspace above the park. The Village Voice’s Rosie Gray related the following curt exchange as she was denied access to the park: “Me: ‘I’m press,’ Lady cop, ‘not tonight.’”
Two reporters were arrested. Matthew Lysiak tersely blogged on the New York Daily News Web site, “I’ve been arrested.” Julie Walker, a freelance reporter for NPR tweeted her arrest after she was released from custody.
A Connecticut college junior, Ben Doernberg, rounded up a collection of reporter reactions on Twitter into a fairly comprehensive storify, embedded below.
Bloomberg’s actions overnight are the latest in a wave of actions taken by municipalities across the country to start scattering various “Occupy” encampments. But this appears to be the first one with such an orchestrated media strategy.