During the LAPD raid on OccupyLA on November 30, 2011, press was ordered to leave the site or be subject to arrest and exposure to “less lethal” force. Press remaining to cover the city’s action was penned across the street where this image, captured during livestream broadcast by Spencer Mills/OakFoSho, is representative of their view of the raid.
As both a journalist who occasionally freelances for the mainstream media, and an Occupier, I find myself in a conflicted position regarding reporting on Occupy LA. My personal affinity towards the movement means that I am loathe to write about it in the mainstream media with any kind of objectivity. The flipside of this is that rarely is the mainstream media itself impartial or unbiased. I do, however, frequently pass on accurate information to publications such as The Guardian when it does not conflict with the solidarity of the movement. For example, The Guardian’s recent reporting on Eviction Night was crap, so I wrote in and corrected it with accurate details. I’m sure they probably ignored me. But anyway.
Referring again to The Guardian, a recent article by Naomi Wolf, entitled The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy, caused a furore across the internet. It’s advent was timely, given the tweets sent out by the LAPD today announcing a media pool for Occupy LA:
#LAPD meeting to do lottery to select “pool media” for future #OccupyLA activity. Interested media in pool must have rep attend mtg @ 7:15pm
RT @DavidBegnaud: #LAPD media relations to hold news conference at 7:15pm tonight @LAPDHQ regarding #occupyla #ktla
The repercussions of this are tremendous: this essentially means from now onwards, only a limited number of pre-agreed media endorsed by LAPD are allowed on Solidarity Park (formerly known as City Hall) property to report on Occupy LA and our battles with the LAPD and City Council’s attempts to evict us. I immediately emailed a member of the press who was in this meeting representing a MSM publication, and received this response:
They were only going to let in one media outlet for each medium (print, tv and radio) but we convinced them to let in three….the only media eligible for pool were those who were on the LAPD press release list and able to get to headquarters with an hours notice. So very few were represented at the meeting. I asked about independent radio/blogs and they said that only media with LAPD-issued badges would be allowed in the vicinity. I asked about those already at the camp and they said after the unlawful assembly order everyone who doesn’t leave will be arrested, even those who are journalists. Our attorney was looking into whether there were legal challenges to be made.
Once again, a clear violation of First Amendment Rights is occuring over Occupy LA and its eviction. It remains to be seen whether other members of the MSM excluded from the pool adhere to it or not, but the banning of MSM from the scene of Occupy LA during its eviction severely inhibits the press from reporting fairly and accurately, as well as protecting Occupiers from police abuses, which are frequently deterred by the presence of the media. Last night, on the street, one of the chants heard often was “The Whole World is Watching”.
LAPD listened to that, and instantly addressed it, so that they can make sure the whole world isn’t watching. Only those MSM outlets they choose to filter our information are going to be watching Occupy LA and LAPD’s attempts to evict us.
Note: California Penal Code Section 409.5 clearly states reasons that the LAPD and other agencies may close areas due to public health concerns, riots, civil disturbances or calimities (earthquakes, fires, floods, etc) — but — Section D of 409.5 states:
(D) NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL PREVENT A DULY AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE OF ANY NEWS SERVICE, NEWSPAPER, RADIO OR TELEVISON STATION OR NETWORK FROM ENTERING THE AREAS CLOSED PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION. (bold mine)
You can follow Ruth Fowler’s Blog at Occupy Los Angeles.
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