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21 Nov, 2011 22:00

Police lockdown and brutality on journalists at OWS

An estimated 26 journalists have been arrested at Occupy Wall Street protests. Brutally handcuffed, thrown onto the ground, pepper sprayed, and threatened to have press credentials taken away – is this the future for freedom of press in the US?

Freedom of the press versus a press suppressed. A new reality for journalists reporting in the US – being roughed up, arrested and blocked from coverage.“It’s definitely unacceptable and not something that we should just let happen in a country that prides itself on freedom and the first amendment,”  said freelance writer and editorial assistant at Alternet Kristen Gwynne, who was handcuffed while text messaging and held for several hours. Petite 21-year-old Anna Lekas Miller was tear-gassed by police. “It tastes pretty disgusting and really hurts your eyes a lot,” she described. “I was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1 covering the action for Alternet,” said Kristen Gwynne. There is also the brutal detention of Faith Laugier caught on tape by a colleague.“One cop literally came up, from behind, grabbed her and threw her to the ground,” said credentialed journalist Evan Shamar, describing the arrest. An estimated 26 journalists have so far been arrested covering Occupy Wall Street protests. A majority are members of alternative media.“The media is there to be a watchdog, to report the news – not to give you gentle sound bites that don’t hurt your millionaire ears,” said Occupy Wall Street activist Jesse LaGreca. Not hurting millionaire ears are the corporate media, often covering the action from behind the barricades, but amidst the crowd – many journalists have been blocked regardless of their press passes and were even threatened to have their media credentials taken away.“Taking press passes is unprecedented behavior. It’s shocking to me. Our liberties as individuals and journalists are getting rolled back daily,” said editorial columnist and author Ted Rall. Not long ago, a journalist in America used to be respected. But now – times are different. “Being a journalist you have absolutely no credential that will keep you from getting arrested. You are just as much at risk of getting arrested, as everyone else,” said journalist Anna Lekas Miller. Some rights have simply gone out the window.“The United States has changed. Twenty-thirty years ago, when I got into this job – if you had press credentials – you could go anywhere, and it really was a free pass,” said Ted Rall. Police brutality at Occupy Wall Street protests has peaked recently, and some officials have even attempted to keep it under wraps.“They want to keep the journalists as separate from the protesters as they can, so they can see less of what’s actually happening," said Kristen Gwynne. Excuses for blocking the press given by authorities have varied, but many are just not buying it any longer. “Media journalists don’t have the right to video tape police activities… ummmm!.. It almost sounds like when Bush invaded Iraq and he said you’re not allowed to say bad things because that hurts our freedom,” said Jesse La Greca. The U.S. has always prided itself in press freedom. It has tried to lead by example by lecturing other countries, but with Occupy Wall Street protests unveiling all sorts of ugly skeletons in America’s closet – the concept seems to be well on its way to becoming a thing of the past.