The New York Times is Hella Tired of NYPD Blocking Its Photographers

New York Police officers continue to interfere with photographers and reporters trying to cover news, and a New York Times photographer who was prevented from shooting an arrest at an Occupy Wall Street rally last weekend said police had reason to hide their actions from the press.

The department’s treatment of reporters in the field has been so bad, media outlets say, that 13 news organizations signed a second letter to the New York Police Department from a New York Times lawyer on Wednesday, demanding responses and follow-up after their first scathing criticism of the department’s handling of the press. The new complaint to police comes after two officers prevented Times freelance photographer Robert Stolarik from photographing a protester’s arrest at Sunday’s rally in support of Occupy Oakland, the letter says. The letter, which Capital New York posted in full, cites a Times storythat reported “officers blocked the lens of a newspaper photographer attempting to document the arrests.” 

The police’s interference with the press extends past Occupy protests, the organizations say. An inspector threatened New York Daily News photographer David Handschuh at last year’s Macy’s Day parade, theNational Press Photographers Association writes, and another Daily News reporter had his press credentials pulled while covering a fire in December, Capital New York reported.

We’ve reached out to the New York Police Department for comment, and will update this account when they respond.

Update: The department responded to The Times lawyers with a letter of its own, explaining the scope and nature of its updated media training. Scroll to the bottom of this post for more.

Stolarik told The Atlantic Wire on Wednesday that after two officers put their hands in front of his camera lens, a sergeant told him they had every right to do so, since he was shooting while an arrest was in progress. The arrest, he said, was messy. “It was an un-badged officer who was making the arrest. He didn’t identify himself as an officer, and he threw a girl to the ground,” Stolarik said. The officer “was in plain clothes. The girl didn’t do anything, so maybe they just didn’t want it to be documented.” When Stolarik tried to photograph it, “one officer had his hand on the lens of my camera, pushing it down. The other was in front.” Reporter Colin Moynihan’s account of the arrest says uniformed officers ultimately took the protester into custody:

A few moments later, on Park Avenue, a man wearing dark clothes and wearing no visible badge grabbed a woman by the arm and threw her to the ground. Uniformed officers arrested her and a second woman as other officers blocked the lens of a newspaper photographer attempting to document the arrests.

Stolarik has been here before, but the last time he was stopped from shooting an arrest, during another Occupy protest last December, somebody took video of it, and the department responded with an investigation. This time, no video has surfaced. But Stolarik’s become sort of a poster child for the Timesand its colleagues’ case against the police. In the demands put forth in Wednesday’s letter, Stolarik’s name comes up twice, cited as the only full investigation the department’s carried out in a case of interfering with the press. 

The media outlets first wrote to the department in November, after several reporters were arrested while covering the city’s crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park. After a Thanksgiving meeting, the department pledged to provide first-amendment training to its officers, Wednesday’s letter says. It requests the department to provide details of that training, as well as updates on officer discipline, and results of a meeting among borough task force commanders. But the media groups’ first demand is its most intensive, as it calls for a written response to each case of press interference that’s been brought to the department:

As for Stolarik, he said he hadn’t even reported the interference to the paper. Interference by the police, he said, was “a pretty regular thing,” and by the time he’d finished shooting on Sunday, “I was just so tired.” But tired or not, Stolarik’s become something of an it-boy for the New York press’s showdown with police, at least until other internal investigations start coming to light. 

Update (6:10 p.m. EST): The New York Police Department hasn’t responded to us, but Deputy Commissioner Paul Brown did respond to the letter from The New York Times. In his letter to The Times’ attorneys on Wednesday afternoon, Brown wrote that two incidents involving reporters at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden last December (including the one involving Stolarik) had resulted in reprimands. But those have been the only two so far.

Brown also outlined the department’s training efforts following The Times’s initial letter, saying 1,600 new officers had received training in dealing with the media, as well as sergeants, inspectors, and bureau commanders throughout the force. Of that training, Browne wrote:

I emphasized 1st Amendment protections, guideline requirements, and addressed specific scenarios. For example, periodically, we receive complaints that an officer may try to deter a photographer, even one positioned outside of the crime scene, from taking the photograph of a dead body before it has been covered. I’ve used this as an example where subject matter is the photographer’s concern, not the officer’s. The message was well received, no objections were voiced, and the commanders said they would do their best to see that policy is adhered to in the field.  I’ll send you training material under separate cover.

whisperedinsecret:

Note the timing.  Just as she is saying that NDAA criminalizes our speech they arrest her as if the cops had a black light bulb go off in their microscopic brains and thought  “yeah we now have the power to arrest her for saying that.”  BREAKING: NYPD Silencing Protesters Live!! from informing the general public that NDAA passed (by OperationLeakS)

whatiremembered

whatiremembered:

Don’t get confused.

This does not mean that you are allowed to get together with your hippie friends and make signs or chant about your problems.

None of you are real people.

Real people are corporations… with money, and this amendment exist to ensure that they can give money to politicians….

LOL. Damn, here I was all confused. I shall now go build my alter to money and pray to it daily.

entrprizsol:

Your allotted amount of free speech has expired! (by LainieDuro)

»»>««<

Texas Rangers explain that the rule at the Texas Capitol is that there can only be three hours of protest per day on the grounds.

Wow. Actually it would appear she is saying the rule is three hours per event. And she had determined that any person who arrives with a poster is part of THIS event, which has expired. Thus, no one, from that moment on is allowed on the TEXAS STATE CAPITOL to exercise free speech about anything she deems part of that same event. Am I understanding her correctly? 

I just looked up Texas Administrative Code RULES AND REGULATIONS OF THE BOARDRULE §111.20 Use of the Capitol Grounds

(a) Definitions. The following words and terms, when used in this section, shall have the following meanings, unles the context clearly indicates otherwise

(1) Event—Any performance, ceremony, presentation, or activity held on the grounds.  

(2) Public purpose—The promotion of the public health, education, safety, morals, general welfare, security, and prosperity of all of the inhabitants or residents within the state, the sovereign powers of which are exercised to promote such public purpose or public business. The chief test of what constitutes a public purpose is that the public generally must have a direct interest in the purpose and the community at large is to be benefitted. This does not include activities which promote a specific viewpoint or issue and could be considered lobbying. Political rallies, receptions, and campaign activities are prohibited on the Grounds.

(b) Deposit for use of Capitol grounds. A deposit is required from persons or entities that use the grounds of the Capitol for an event or other scheduled activity. The deposit is in an amount set by the office of the State Preservation Board designed to recover the estimated direct costs to the state of the event or activity. The deposit is required in the office of the State Preservation Board no later than 24 hours prior to the event. The office of the State Preservation Board may deduct from the deposit:

  (1) the cost of damage to the grounds of the Capitol that directly results from the event or other activity;
  (2) the costs of extra labor, materials, and utilities directly attributable to the event or other activity; and
  (3) the costs of extra security requested by the person or entity for the event or other activity.
 (c) Criteria for Approval of Grounds Events.
  (1) All Capitol grounds events will be approved and scheduled by the office of the State Preservation Board upon the recommendation of a state official sponsor as described in subsection (a)(4) of this section.

  (2) All events must have a clear public purpose as described in subsection (a)(2) of this section.

  (3) An event of the grounds of the Capitol should not exceed 3 hours in length.
  (4) Events will not be approved if they:
    (A) promote a commercial enterprise;
    (B) obstruct entrances or interrupt traffic flow through the building;
    (C) obstruct the view of or access to fire fighting equipment, fire alarm pull stations, or fire hydrants;
    (D) involve the use of flammable, hazardous or odorous chemicals or materials;
    (E) involve use of signs or placards attached to objects that might cause damage to the building or its contents.
  (5) Intended use may not interfere with any legislative session or regular use of the grounds of the Capitol for transaction of state business.
  (6) Sound equipment, chairs, podiums, tents, or other equipment required for ceremonies, presentations, or performances must be approved by the office of the State Preservation Board, but furnished and installed by the requesting party. Installation approval is subject to inspection.

Does something about this seem wrong to you? Maybe this is why: 

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.

- First Amendment to the United States Consitution

cognitivedissonance

From ThinkProgress:

Over at DailyKos, user marvinborg recounts how he was handing out flyers about moving money at a local Bank of America branch. Soon after he arrived there, the branch’s manager came out and started to suggest marvinborg worked for a credit union or that he was unemployed and should “get a job.” Before long, two police officers arrived, after being called by the Bank of America.

One of the officers asked marvinborg if he was trespassing. He responded that he has simply been handing out flyers on the sidewalk. One of the officers then turned to the bank manager and amazingly scolded him for calling the police over an act of free speech, even telling him that he should move out of the country if he objects to the first amendment:

OFFICER: He has the right to speak and the right to hand out flyers. Unless he blocks you or causes a disturbance, he has the right to be here – please don’t call the police again if he is not bothering you. If you don’t like free speech you should move to another country.