Photograph by Jim Kiernan for Gothamist
Photographs and especially videos of the NYPD’s actions during the occupation of Wall Street have sparked outrage and media attention regarding the protests, which have now spanned ten days. Accordingly, witnesses, including our own photographer, tell us that the NYPD has been specifically targeting photographers and videographers for arrest. Two protestors who were maintaining the live video feed of the protests were arrested on Saturday, the first claiming that she was detained solely because she was holding a camera. “Those are the first people the police go after,” protest organizer Patrick Bruner tells us. “They’re always the first to get held up.”
While it is well within a protestor’s right to film a demonstration or an arrest, NYCLU spokesperson Jennifer Carnig tells us, “You cannot interfere with police action, i.e. get in the middle of an arrest to take a photo or make a video.” It may be a stretch to say that those operating the protest’s live stream would be able to physically “interfere” with an arrest while holding a laptop.
Times’ Up! photographer Barbara Ross tells us that as she was filming Saturday’s march down Broadway to Union Square, a white-shirted NYPD officer repeatedly warned her that she would be arrested unless she started marching with the demonstrators. “I was standing off to the side so I could document what was going on—you couldn’t really see much from within the group,” Ross says, “And he kept saying, ‘You either join them or I’ll arrest you.’ I wasn’t blocking traffic or harming anything, it was obvious it was because I was holding a camera.”
Jim Kiernan, who was shooting Saturday’s protests for Gothamist, said that NYPD officers were “definitely” zeroing in on anyone with a camera. At around 12th Street and Fifth Avenue, Kiernan saw a large black SUV pull up next to a few police supervisors. “It was Ray Kelly. He rolled down his window and I had a perfect shot but I knew if I pointed my camera at him I’d get arrested on the spot.” Moments later, “a videographer who I had seen all day, who didn’t seem to be part of the protest was arrested. One officer took her camera, another cuffed her,” Kiernan said. “A few seconds later, another photographer next to her gets arrested—no provocation whatsoever. That’s when I decided I was done for the day.”
“The NYPD has been known to aggressively videotape people,” Carnig says. Indeed, a police officer can be seen filming in this arrest video, presumably protecting them from any accusations of mistreatment. “We encourage people to let us know if they’ve been harassed by the cops for taking a photo or making a video.” We’ve yet to receive comment from the NYPD.