Like Cagle and a number of other reporters, I too was detained during a mass arrest of Occupy Wall Street protesters. On October 1, while reporting for The New York Times, I followed a surging crowd onto the Brooklyn Bridge. I was arrested alongside 700 others, as was Alternet staff member Kristen Gwynne. Despite wearing a New York Times identification badge and explaining that I was a reporter, I did not have an NYPD press pass and was not allowed to leave the bridge.
AFTRA’s Cavallaro emphasized the importance of newsrooms equipping their journalists with credentials that the police will recognize. But predicting police responses from city to city, even from precinct to precinct or from day to day has proven challenging for reporters and demonstrators alike.
Some general patterns in crowd control tactics have emerged: Where the NYPD have tried to corral crowds with orange nets and have deployed batons and pepper spray against protesters, police departments in Denver and Oakland have used tear gas and rubber bullets. Indeed, the editor of the Bay Citizen, Steve Fainaru, was hit in the stomach by tear gas canister fired by the Oakland police, which singed the skin on his hand. INSI has urged journalists and their employers to pay close attention to how police tactics may vary in different regions and situations and to share information learned from experience.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters are experimenting with new political formats, relationships and spaces. The media, in turn, are learning to adapt to new reporting terrains. I, for one, have learned to stay near the edge in a protest crowd, always ensuring I can spot an escape route, lest I find myself in plastic handcuffs again.
Natasha Lennard is a project officer for the International News Safety
Institute - North America. Visit INSI-NA’s Facebook page for more