About 50 people were arrested yesterday after they scaled a fence to gain access to a lot owned by Trinity Church. The action followed celebration marking Occupy’s three-month anniversary across the street at Duarte Square where hundreds of protesters gathered. Protesters have long petitioned the church for use of their land, which is one part of Trinity’s plentiful real estate properties – one of the largest such holdings in Manhattan.
During the arrests, many journalists reported being arrested, bullied, and in a couple cases, assaulted by police. Independent photojournalist Zach Roberts was arrested, and not only managed to tweet “being arrested,” but also snapped a photo while he was being detained in a holding cell.
Roberts makes a brief appearance in this video taken in the back of a paddy wagon on its way to central booking following the arrests. In the video, Bishop George Packard, who was also arrested during the lot occupation, explains the reasoning behind Trinity’s decision to deny Occupy the use of its land.
“This is a church, not a corporation. They own one-third of the property south of Canal Street,” said Packard.
Eight hours after being arrested, Roberts tweeted that he had been released from jail.
Other journalists reported being detained by NYPD. Nick Pinto, a staff writer at the Village Voice, tweeted while he was being held in a police kettle: “I ask an officer if we’re getting arrested or what. He answers with a shrug.”
The most disturbing report of police behavior came from Democracy Now’s Ryan Devereaux, who tweeted that an officer pushed his fist into Devereaux’s throat. “He was telling people to move back. I told I couldn’t move. He said ‘get the fuck back,’ and held into me and wouldn’t let me go,” he tweeted. The officer did this even after Devereaux repeatedly told him he was press.
“My neck is red, my press pass was ripped. I was doing nothing but standing on the sidewalk doing my job,” he wrote.
Devereaux also reported seeing a senior officer throw a younger plain clothes officer to the ground after failing to recognize him.
“The younger officer said he was hurt,” said Devereaux.
Josh Stearns, director at Free Press, has been tracking journalist arrests at Occupy protests all over the country since September. According to Stearns, 34 journalists have been arrested while trying to do their jobs.
Occupy Arrests, a Twitter account that tracks the total Occupy arrest figures, reports that well over 5600 individuals have been arrested since the beginning of the movement, and that figure doesn’t yet count the arrests that occurred on December 17.
Roberts eight-hour holding times looks like a luxury when compared to the ordeal endured by other reporters. John Knefel, an independent journalist who in the past has written for Salon, was held for more than 36 hours after being arrested December 13 for the crime of filming police activity during a protest.
I spoke with Knefel yesterday at the Occupy anniversary rally and he confirmed that the “Occupy 17” as they’re now called are planning a lawsuit against the NYPD.