The video embedded below, taken during Monday's OWS protests at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden, is a stark reminder of how our press' freedom – nay, the 1st Amendment itself – continues to be suppressed.
What you are about to see is Robert Stolarik, on assignment for The New York Times, being physically hounded, blocked and harassed as he tries to photograph a series of arrests taking place in the background.
Witness this infuriating incident:
This moment is just one more example of a continuing trend: police across this country freezing out the media and ILLEGALLY suppressing press coverage of public protests. As David Carr in the New York Times notes:
Back in November when New York police officers pushed protesters out of Zuccotti Park, many reporters were physically prevented from covering the events, ostensibly as a way to keep them safe.
There was significant push back from the press. A letter was sent to New York officials by a number of press organizations, The New York Times among them, charging that the police action had violated “N.Y.P.D. policies and procedures as concerns the media.”
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly responded on Nov. 23 by sending an internal memo to his department ordering them not to impede members of the press and warning that those who did would be subject to disciplinary action.
It seems that internal memo was never, um, delivered.
As you can see in the video, and as Stolarik himself notes in the Village Voice, his press credentials are clear. There is no confusion. There is no misunderstanding. There is only a willful attempt to keep our press from recording the way in which Occupy Wall Street protesters are treated.
As our wealth continues to be drained by those corporations which have bought our Congress and crafted legislation benefiting the 1 percent (to the detriment of everyone else), our freedoms are beginning to be drained as well.
To echo Dylan Ratigan, there is an extraction underfoot in this country. We are being extracted. Not just our money, not just our capital. But our rights. Our protections. The very essence of our citizenship, our peoplehood.
It is this simple: a country without a wholly free press, a country with a press that is censored and suppressed by the authorities, is a police state.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
Are their gradations? Are there shades? Sure. Fine. Of course. But really? Is that how we are to defend such actions? To say, Well, at least this isn't Syria.
To defend our country in such a way is to demonstrate just how far we've fallen.
Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG
Author's Note 1:
Independent journalist John Knefel, who was just released after being held for 37 hours by the NYPD for Tweeting the same protest seen in the above video, has written a must-read account at Salon.
The money line for me:
The story of Occupy Wall Street is impossible to tell removed from the story of the prison industrial complex.
And here is the video of his brutal arrest – which, remember, was for Tweeting:
Author's Note 2:
As a patriotic way to vent, I present the First Amendment, in all its glory:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
How many of these clauses have been violated (in spirit or codified deed)? How many will continue to be violated as nonviolent protests move forward?