“The claims arise from a series of incidents in connection with Occupy Wall Street protests beginning in and around September 17, 2011 and continuing to the present day in which the City of New York in concert with various private and public entities have employed Officers of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) and others acting under color of state law, to intentionally and willfully subject Plaintiffs and the public to, among other things, violations of rights to free speech, assembly, freedom of the press, false arrest, excessive force, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution and, furthermore, purposefully obstructing Plaintiffs carrying out their duties as elected officials and members of the press, including oversight of the New York City Police Department.” -Rodriguez Et Al v. Winski Et Al. First Amended Complaint (pdf, scribd link)
We’ve written before about photographers being abused while covering protests in New York City. Now, photographers Stephanie Keith, Charles Meacham, the National Press Photographers’ Association (see their blog about the case), five NYC city council members, and others, have joined in a federal lawsuit against various New York City entities and officials, including Mayor Bloomberg, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, and a number of identified and unidentified police officers, as well as JP Morgan Chase and other businesses in the Occupy Wall Street area, alleging that they engaged in the intentional obstruction of news-gathering activities, the business of elected officials, and Constitutionally-protected protest activities. The complaint can be read in it’s entirety here. In an NPPA press release about the lawsuit, a quotation summarizes photographer Stephanie Keith’s complaints against the city and others, “I joined this lawsuit because as a working journalist I’ve been arrested, thrown to the ground, hit with batons and yelled at by the NYPD while doing my job on assignment. I have seen my fellow journalists being treated this way as well. Why should journalists be subjected to trauma inducing harassment on the job?”
“We are disappointed that the result and first step of our recent meeting with Com. Kelly, the directive he issued reiterating that the police are not supposed to be interfering with the media’s doing their jobs and covering newsworthy events, has apparently not been followed or implemented on the ground. The World Financial Center video indisputably shows an officer bobbing and weaving for no other purpose than to block a Times freelancer’s ability to photograph police actions.” NYT lawyer George Freeman, speaking with Capital New York
This isn’t the first volley between media and the NYPD and Bloomberg administration. Letters have been sent to the authorities before; variousorganizationshave helpedpressure the NYPD and other authorities, as well. Though this is not without some effect&em;in late November, NY Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly issued a memo for all police instructing them not to interfere with the media&em;the Stolarik video shows that police continue to obstruct the press with impunity.
The limitations placed on photographers are limited to Occupy Wall Street, New York City, or even the US. The Committee to Protect Journalists chronicles journalists killed and detained each year around the globe. Here’s the list of journalists killed so far in 2011.
“Thank God! Cameras are dangerous. With no waiting period or background check any wack-job could just stroll into a Wal-Mart and walk out with a semi-automatic [camera]. Now for years I’ve been pressing for stricter regulations on cameras, especially around our elected officials. To many political lives have been cut short by some crazed [photo] shooter.” Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report