"Public Safety" has become the mantra of those who seek to squash dissent and defend the powerful.

The New York Times confirmed what was already reported via twitter by those on the scene at the time. As New York City police cleared the Occupy Wall Street campsite in Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning, many journalists were blocked from observing and interviewing protesters. Some called it a media blackout and said in interviews that they believed that the police efforts were a deliberate attempt to tamp down coverage of the operation.  In other words,  the NYPD didn’t want you to see Occupy Wall Street get evicted.

As a result, most of the video and photos of the police operation was from the vantage points of the protesters. Videos that were live-streamed on the Web and uploaded to YouTube were eventually picked up by television networks, both national and international, and broadcast on Tuesday morning.

At a news conference after the park was cleared Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the police behavior, saying that the media was kept away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.”

The Daily News is reporting that City Councilmen John Liu, Bill DiBlasio and Scott Stringe have "blasted" Mayor Bloomberg,  New York state governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York City Police department for the midnight raid.

Some members of the media said they were shoved by the police. As the police approached the park they did not distinguish between protesters and members of the press, said Lindsey Christ, a reporter for NY1, a local cable news channel. “Those 20 minutes were some of the scariest of my life,” she said.  Ms. Christ said that police officers took a New York Post reporter standing near her and “threw him in a choke-hold.”

A freelance journalist working for NPR, Julie Walker, was briefly detained during the operation.

DNAInfo.com Managing Editor Michael Ventura confirmed with The NY Observer that their reporter Patrick Hedlund was arrested while covering the OWS protests on the perimeter of Zuccotti Park. Mr. Hedlund, who was wearing a press credential at the time, was “doing his job and was arrested for that.”

Other journalists wrote on Twitter that they came close to being arrested in the early morning hours.

The New York Daily News tried to keep tabs on which members of the press have been detained by police: “AP writer Karen Matthews was taken into custody; also AP photographer Seth Wenig and Daily News reporter Matthew Lysiak,” were all noted as having been arrested by the Daily News. 

A freelance photographer working for the online publication was also arrested. Paul Lomax was arrested at Duarte Square on Canal and Sixth Avenue later in the day as protesters were moving towards the area. He, too, was wearing NYPD-issued press credentials at the time of the arrest.

Andrew Katz, a journalism student at Columbia University who was writing for the Web site The Brooklyn Ink, said that the police “wouldn’t let us get anywhere near Zuccotti.”

Mr. Katz said that at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street, three blocks from the park, some police officers told him to stand on the sidewalk while others told him to stand on the street. “I was shoved by police on the sidewalk and then off the sidewalk,” he said. “Where was I supposed to go? It led to confusion among the press.”

Rosie Gray, a writer for The Village Voice, recounted telling a police officer, “I’m press!” She said the officer responded, “Not tonight.”

Later in the morning, even when there were media reports that Zuccotti Park was reopening, reporters had a hard time getting access to the area. Debra Alfarone, a reporter at WPIX, the CW affiliate in New York City, wrote on Twitter around 8:45 a.m., "And we got kicked out of #zuccottipark again."

At midday, as protesters tried to claim a vacant lot owned by a church, a confrontation ensued and at least four journalists were led away in plastic handcuffs, according to the The City Room blog of the New York Times.

On Tuesday afternoon several journalism groups spoke out against the police tactics. One such group, the New York Press Club, said in a statement that “the brash manner in which officers ordered reporters off the streets and then made them back off until the actions of the police were almost invisible is outrageous.”  The group added, “We want the department to investigate the incidents involved this crackdown on Zuccotti Park and we want assurances it won’t happen again.”

This is a clear violation of the freedom of the press as guaranteed under the First Amendment. If you are outraged, you should be!  If your are not, because you disagree with the Occupy Movement, remember the infamous Niemoller quote:

"First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."


It is time to take action.  Click here to find out what you can do to:
Stop The Attack on the Free Press.