By Natasha Lennard
The past weekend saw a wave of Occupy actions and with it, another round of journalist arrests. Oakland police arrested 400 people on Saturday, including six journalists, following attempts by Occupy Oakland supporters to move inside a vacant building.
Among the reporters arrested were Mother Jones‘ Gavin Aronsen, KGO Radio’s Kristen Haynes, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vivian Ho and independent journalist, Susie Cagle — who has now been arrested twice in Occupy Oakland protests, despite identifying herself as press and carrying credentials at the scene.
Aronsen of Mother Jones wrote that he, Haynes and Ho displayed their press credentials to the police, to no avail:
“When Hanes displayed her [press pass], 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.”
The Oakland Police department, much like New York’s, has issued specific orders that officers not interfere with media access to
protest actions. Nonetheless, cases of media arrests and harassment have persisted. Journalists in New York, including the New York Times‘ Colin Moynihan and the Guardian‘s Ryan Devereaux (formerly with Democracy Now!), have been threatened and assaulted by NYPD officers in recent months while covering Occupy actions. The events in Oakland Saturday show that equally scant regard is given to press by the OPD.
On Sunday evening, solidarity marches in response to the events in Oakland snaked through city streets across the country and Occupy groups are planning new actions everyday. Calls for a general strike on May 1. are resonating from California to New York, and the G8 and NATO summits in Chicago mid-May promise to draw tens of thousands of demonstrators to the city. Reporters covering unrest this year should prepare themselves for intense street battles and police repression that looks unlikely to to keep a free press in mind.
The International News Safety Institute is offering training to Chicago-based reporters ahead of the May protests. News institutions and members of the press interested in instruction elsewhere should email Natasha.Lennard@newssafety.org.