The NYPD’s troubles with free speech and assembly accelerated with the rise of the Occupy movement last fall. And while Occupy Wall Street has faded from the front pages of newspapers, magazines and websites, the NYPD is still infringing upon free press and assembly rights.
According to the NYCLU “Free Speech Threat Assessment” project, “The NYPD’s approach to public protest from June 17, 2012 to August 1, 2012 was characterized by the excessive use of force, mistreatment of journalists, multiple restrictions of protesters’ movement, selective enforcement of laws, harassment and unjustified arrests.”
In one incident on June 22, a photographer working a Washington Square Park protest “was grabbed from behind and jostled while filming a march terminating in Washington Square Park,” while on July 11, “a protester was forcefully arrested for drumming in Zuccotti Park and a photographer merely attempting to document the arrest was violently flung over a stone bench several times before an officer held the photographer down by placing his knee on the back of his neck and arrested him.”
OWS isn’t big news any longer, so the NYPD’s Gestapo tactics are no longer big news. It’s an exceptional shame that mainstream media’s ADHD approach to news obscures the First Amendment abuses being perpetrated by the NYPD.
The tough-guy NYPD approach even extends to an older woman knitting at Zucotti Park protest. According to the NYCLU’s report:
56-year-old diabetic woman knitting in a folding chair. A supervisory officer approached her with a bullhorn, demanding that she leave the chair. She began to comply and officers took her chair and began searching the cart with her knitting supplies, ultimately seizing some of her knitting. She was told by officers to either leave the park or be charged with trespass, so she opted to leave. A man who attempted to help gather her supplies was suddenly thrown to the ground and placed in a headlock by officers who cuffed him.
We can excuse the media for looking for a new story, but we should collectively not excuse their dereliction of duty in reporting on the NYPD’s reactionary approach to protest and the only press that seems to be reporting upon it these days.
As the report reminds us, the NYPD attempted to further marginalize OWS by informing the New York Post that DNA samples “lifted from a CD player found near the corpse of a student who was murdered in 2004 matched a sample taken from a chain purportedly used by Occupy Wall Street protesters to open a subway gate to permit people to ride for free.” Their excellent police work was discredited the next day after it was discovered that an NYPD lab technician botched the results. However, the seed connecting protest with death was already planted in the minds of many.
Hopefully some protesters and photographers will start filing some lawsuits against the NYPD, because the mainstream media sure as hell isn’t helping them out.