Though news reporter's place their lives in peril every day so that they may cover the conflict in the Middle East, New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended his arrest of journalists covering the disbandment of the peaceful protest in Zuccotti Park one the grounds that, "It was for their protection." Police arrested reporters who tried to observe and report the police action as far away as two blocks. According to Bloomberg,
“The Police Department routinely keeps members of the press off to the side when they are in the middle of a police action. It’s to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect the members of the press,” Mayor Bloomberg said, adding, “We have to provide protection and we’ve done exactly that.”Since time and again our courts have ruled on the importance of transparency in government; and, since the Mayor himself operates a media empire, it is ironic indeed that his honor chooses to conduct the work of the New York police so as to hinder and hide the work of this government agency from public view.
While Mayor Bloomberg's doublespeak is designed to shroud himself as a protector of press reporters--the facts are more likely this. In the previous two months that Zuccotti Park was occupied, citizen reporters provided video after video of police misconduct and outright brutality.
Given the track record of the New York police, I think it safe to assume that Bloomberg wanted no more witnesses to any force that would be used to evict the protesters. Thus, Bloomberg sought to neutralize his objections of a free and open press under the guise of citizen protection.
Nat Hentoff, respected writer of the Village Voice stated:
Since 1958, when I became a reporter at the Voice, I have covered every mayor—including the monarchical Rudy Giuliani—and every police commissioner, but never have I witnessed such brutish contempt for the First Amendment rights of the press (and therefore of us) as the Bloomberg–Kelly arrests and other prior restraints of reporters.Over the years Hentoff has seen it all. Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post and the New York Times, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D), who represents New York’s 8th congressional district, says that he is urging Attorney General Eric Holder to “launch a thorough investigation into law enforcement activities surrounding Occupy Wall Street — and its national offshoots — to determine whether the police have indeed violated the civil liberties of demonstrators or members of the media.” In a letter to Holder, Nadler cited three specific instances in which members of the Occupy movement alleged that police officers used: excessive force on protesters, illegal surveillance of individuals “engaged in constitutionally protected activities” and prevented journalists from covering the protests during the Nov. 15 eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park. The New York Democrat also pointed to reports stating that police officers had targeted some journalists for mistreatment.”
“Our law enforcement officers have a duty to protect our health and safety, but that duty must always be discharged with respect for the fundamental First Amendment rights to free expression and peaceful assembly,” said Nadler, who is also the top Democrat on the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution.