Human Rights’ Lawyers Say Journalists’ Rights Were Violated During Occupy Protests

by dave on August 2, 2012

Occupy Wall Street was just one fraction of the Occupy protests that took over the country last year around this time. But it was the most publicized and it spawned the other protests from all corners of the nation. A report this week detailed that the protestors weren’t the only ones possibly facing unlawful arrest at the function, however, that journalists were too.

According to Newsgathering, the report came from The Protest and Assembly Rights Project, a group of human rights’ lawyers. The attorneys authored the 200 page report, which said that NYPD officers violated the rights of journalists and arrested 18 of them covering the Occupy Wall Street protests.

According to the report, a “media blackout” during an eviction of protestors in Zuccotti Park on Nov. 15 was “the most egregious single example of police violation of the rights of the media to cover protests freely.” Relying on eight months’ worth of data collection and the testimony of journalists who were blocked from covering the eviction, the study noted that many reporters were forcibly removed from the scene and that at least 10 of them were arrested that day. One freelance journalist for The New York Post was allegedly “thrown into a choke hold” by a law enforcement officer.

While the lawyers were able to substantiate the arrests of 18 journalists, they believe there may have been more. Josh Stearns of Free Press documented 44 arrests including reporters, freelancers, independent filmmakers, citizen journalists, and photographers.

The report specifically looked at the arrests that violated international human rights laws. But the actions may have violated local laws as well. As the Newsgathering report mentions, journalists and individuals in general can record the NYPD without their consent.

Most of the reporters were likely arrested for failure to disperse, a disorderly conduct offense. When the police ask you to do something, and you fail to do it, they can arrest you as long as their directive was a lawful one.

For instance, if they ask you to tie their shoe, you don’t have to. But, if they ask you to clear an area where a crime is taking place or in an effort to “keep the peace,” you could face arrest if you refuse to move.

Because the people have a constitutionally-guaranteed right to assemble and the press has a right to document this, both citizen and journalist arrests at the Occupy protests are being heavily scrutinized by defense lawyers.

If you were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct at a protest or gathering, let us put you in touch with a local attorney today.

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