When Mayor Bloomberg raided Zuccotti Park on November 15 he used a long popular tactic, removing all media and press from documenting the eviction and its associated arrests. Media helicopters were forced out of the air, police stopped those with official press passes from entering the area and independent journalists were arrested.
Still, there were many people able to film and clips began popping up on youtube within minutes. Even more valuable, livestreaming began to take off. Now it didn’t matter if the police confiscated a camera and erased the pictures. Livestreaming documented every second to the world as it occurred.
But don’t think that this means the police won’t do everything they can to black out coverage of their activities. In Houston on Monday the police used a new method of restricting press freedom. When a group protesting at the Port of Houston laid on the ground, ready and willing to be peacefully arrested in an act of civil disobedience, the Houston police brought in a large forensic tent to cover the protestors, block all cameras and all witness of the arrests.
This tent is normally used when the police have discovered a dead body and wish to ensure the privacy of the deceased. The purpose here is not so noble. It is to ensure there are no witnesses to the police activities. After spending hours in jail, the felony charges were dropped. This is no surprise. In many arrests all over the country people are rounded up and thrown into jail only to be released the next day. Those arrests are meant to intimidate and make others wary of protest.
On the same day, in NYC, the the police specifically targeted the press. OWS held a flashmob at Brookfield Properties’ Winter Garden. There were 17 people arrested and according to Kevin Kozstola at FLD, “Those seventeen people each have something in common: they all are somehow involved with media.” The arrests included OWS livestreamers Justin Wedes and Lorenzo as well as FAIR journalist John Knefel. In fact, every one of the 17 were doing media at the event.
In New York the location was too large for a tent to cover, so they arrested those filming and documenting the event. What is next? The militarized arm of the 1% has realized they don’t want the public to see their actions, whether it is pepper spray, batons, harassment, threats or worse. What will they do next to ensure there is no documentation of their actions?
Maybe we can see a clue in this report on how the Israeli military cracked down on press while they prevented humanitarian aid and construction materials from reaching the Gaza Strip in a raid that resulted in the death of 9 humanitarian activists.
In May 2010, when the “Free Gaza” flotilla approached Israel’s territorial waters, the military announced that it would jam all electronic transmissions in the waters surrounding the ships so as to prevent reports from reaching international networks, for the sake of preserving the country’s image. During the takeover of the ships, the infringement on freedom of the press continued. According to the Assistant to the UN Secretary-General on Political Affairs, the Israeli military confiscated all the material recorded and filmed by the journalists who were on board. Several months later, when another ship was approaching the Gaza Strip, the military confiscated the equipment that Eli Oshrov – the only Israeli journalist aboard the Irene ship – used to document the events, including his camera, microphone, and cellular phone.