NEW YORK (CBSNewsYork/AP) — Officials say several journalists were arrested while covering the raid and eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park on Tuesday.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the journalists were among 200 who were arrested following the raid.
PHOTOS: NYPD Raid On Zuccotti Park
Associated Press writer Karen Matthews and photographer Seth Wenig were taken into custody Tuesday along with Daily News reporter Matthew Lysiak.
Matthews and Wenig were taken into custody after they followed protesters through an opening in a chain-link fence into a park, according to an AP reporter and other witnesses.
Wall Street Journal reporter Alison Fox saw Matthews and Lysiak being placed in handcuffs. Another AP reporter later saw Matthews and Wenig being removed in a police van.
Patrick Hedlund, a DNAinfo.com News Editor, and Paul Lomax, a freelance photographer assigned to cover Occupy Wall Street for DNAinfo.com, were also arrested in separate incidents.
Freelance radio journalist Julie Walker who was reporting for NPR says she was arrested on disorderly conduct while walking several blocks north of Zuccotti Park after covering the raid.
Other freelancers were also reportedly arrested.
After hearing about the arrests and alleged media access restrictions placed on journalists during the raid, PEN American Center and PEN International issued a statement.
“PEN American Center and PEN International today condemned restrictions on press coverage of police crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York and elsewhere, calling the arrests of journalists, the grounding of media helicopters and the restrictions on access to the Occupy sites ‘an obvious abridgement of the First Amendment right of all Americans to monitor official actions that clearly carry their own First Amendment concerns.'”
The city says police normally keep the press at a distance to protect them.
“The police department routinely keeps members of the press off to the side when they’re in the middle of a police action. It’s to prevent the situation from getting worse and it’s to protect the members of the press,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Journalists who arrived on the outskirts of Zuccotti Park as riot police evicted protesters said they were kept from standing in one place to watch the events and some, including an AP videojournalist, said they were kept several blocks from the site. Journalists wearing press passes were kept on the sidewalks and away from the park, along with the protesters, several said.
Deputy NYPD inspector Kim Royster said that 22 people were arrested, including two AP journalists and two other journalists, for entering a private park; protesters clipped a chain link fence to get in, she said.
“The space was off limits. It was private property and there was signage that said no trespassing,” Royster said.
A protester at the site confirmed the police account, saying protesters tore a hole in a chain link fence to get into the park after the Zuccotti encampment was cleared.
“They had hardware. There was a chunk of wood keeping it together along with a chain and they used hardware to remove all of it,” protester April Kidwell said.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said he disturbed by the arrests.
“I believe that part of what makes our city great is the tolerance of different opinions and the press’ ability to cover major events,” said Stringer.
Gabe Pressman, president of the New York Press Club Foundation, sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly reading in part that “the actions of some police officers were not consistent with the long-established relationship between the NYPD and the press.”
The letter continued on to say, “The brash manner in which officers ordered reporters off the streets and then made them back off until the actions of the police were almost invisible is outrageous.”
Pressman is calling on the city to investigate the incident.
Also among those arrested was New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.
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