After a morning of protests that focused on a goofy new tactic called squidding, a second Occupy Wall Street action turned tense as police confronted protesters and journalists -- including a New York Times photographer taped in a back-and-forth with a stubborn cop. It's not the first time the NYPD has been accused of obstructing journalists in the course of their work covering Occupy protests. What's weird is that there's no mention in The Times' own coverage of the protest at the headquarters of Brookfield Office Properties, which owns Zuccotti Park, that the photographer in the footage works for them. Even though the City Room post leads with the video.
The photographer's name is Robert Stolarik, and The Times photo desk confirmed that he was working for them Monday, covering the Occupy protests. During the confrontation with the cop, which starts around the 2:00 mark, you can see Stolarik get understandably annoyed as the officer moves sideways along with him to stay between Stolarik's camera and an arrest police were making (they made 18 in all, we hear). Stolarik's press pass is visible the whole time.
"It’s a shame, because I should have gotten arrest shots, and spending time dodging him makes it harder to do the job," Stolarik said via telephone. "This is a hard job in general, but it’s frustrating that there are guys like this guy who clearly didn’t want to follow the rules and make it difficult." Stolarik didn't get arrested or taken into custody. After he's led away in the video, he says a commander came and talked to him, took his press pass briefly, then gave it back. He was asked to leave the building.
We've heard about this kind of thing a lot surrounding Occupy Wall Street, thanks to an effort spearheaded by The Times following the crackdown on Zuccotti Park in which reporters and photographers were kept away and even arrested. Reporters said they were kept from a Dec. 1 fundraiser for Barack Obama, and Capital New York points to a New York Daily News photographer whose credentials were pulled while covering a Thanksgiving fire. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly last month ordered his department not to interfere with journalists doing their jobs.
But Stolarik, who's worked for The Times since 2000 and at various New York papers before that, said it was nothing new to have police officers occasionally interfere with his work. It happened before Occupy Wall Street threw a spotlight on it and it happens still, even after Kelly's directive. All the attention hasn't changed the frequency with which Stolarik sees this kind of behavior. "For almost as long as I’ve been doing this, it’s the same. I think it’s getting more visibility at this point ... Now, there’s 15 [video] cameras on either side of you."