The NYPD’s enforced media blackout of its raid on protesters in Zuccotti Park last week is already having consequences for the department: On Monday, some 13 news orgs, including local ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates, demanded a meeting with police commissioner Ray Kelly, the architect of the operation, and his spokesman, Paul. J. Browne.
The coverage of Occupy Wall Street has changed drastically in the last few days; before the crackdown, stories on the park included coverage of internecine squabbling and alleged criminal activity among the protesters, as well as a comedy seg on “The Daily Show” about the class division between homeless people and moneyed liberals.
Now, stories leading the news include reports of a Seattle woman’s miscarriage following an alleged assault by a Seattle PD officer, an op-ed in the Times about the journalist beatings and detentions, and a post on Manhattan gossip/news blog Gawker trumpeting references to the NYPD by the embattled authoritarian regime in Egypt.
The NYPD has remained almost entirely silent on the subject of excessive force, except to tell Times columnist Michael Powell that there had been “no change in policy,” which Powell stopped short of calling an outright lie. The NYPD appeared to be on something of a charm offensive on Monday; department-friendly tabloid the New York Post ran a front-page story on the foiling of a Dominican “al Qaeda-inspired” would-be bomber caught by police before he could hurt anyone, with a follow-up on Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, the NYPD released a report saying that police had shot a record few citizens in 2010 (eight).
By Tuesday evening, many outlets had turned their attention to the arrival of OWS protesters in D.C. after a two-week march from Gotham to the nation’s capital.
The letter to authorities was written by New York Times veep and assistant general counsel George Freeman and signed by reps for (among others) the Associated Press, competing tabloids the Daily News and the New York Post, Reuters, Dow Jones (which owns the Wall Street Journal), and WABC, WNBC and WCBS. WCBS was instructed by the NYPD not to cover the raid from its news chopper during the Nov. 15 showdown.
The letter criticized Kelly and Browne for their inaction, saying that the OWS protests were the latest in a string of incidents in which NYPD officers demonstrated a lack of respect for media and their rights and citing communication with the department on the topic as far back as August, when the department asked for written reports of bad behavior. “Despite three follow-up letters, there has been no action on your part — not even the courtesy of a reply,” Freeman said.
Several violent incidents are recounted in the letter. The complaints jibe with numerous accounts of hostile encounters with the police at Occupy Wall Street protests, as well as rough handling of protesters witnessed by journalists for dozens of outlets, including this one.
The NYPD has not yet favored complainants with a response.