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Campuses React to Free Speech Violations at OWS Raid | The Nation

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Campus-oriented news, first-person reports from student activists and journalists about their campus.

Campuses React to Free Speech Violations at OWS Raid

Zuccotti Park, home to the Occupy Wall Street protests for the past two months, were raided by the NYPD late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. Police in riot gear evicted demonstrators to clean the park, citing "health and fire safety" hazards. Protesters were told to leave willingly or they would be subject to arrest.

Though the Supreme Court Justice ruled in favor of the city's orders, claiming that camping in a park wasn't free speech protected by the First Amendment, there were numerous other noteworthy instances of free speech violations.

The Society Of Professional Journalists made a statement on Tuesday condemning the arrests of reporters during the NYPD’s raid of Occupy Wall Street.

“The journalists were either wearing press credentials or explained to police that they were reporters covering the protests,” the statement explained. “They were clearly exercising the constitutional right of a free press...it is clear now that many journalists have been erroneously arrested without cause.”

News of the Occupy Wall Street “media blackout” sparked reactions from sympathetic students across the country.

“Mayor Bloomberg is a billionaire utilizing his office as a way to cut down freedom of speech,” Christopher Cooke of Idaho State University said in a phone interview. “As a student on a college campus, these instances are some of our last fashions of freedom of speech. If we don't claim it and utilize it, then they’re going to keep taking it away.” Cooke is a part of the Occupy movement at Idaho State University and is especially outraged at what he witnessed in New York from afar. “It’s laughable that people camp out for six days to see the next Twilight movie—they’re not being beat up.”

Students at Illinois State University are equally enraged. Ryan Latvaitis of Occupy Bloomington-Normal said in an email, “I find it deeply troubling that the press was ordered away from the occupation when police moved in.  Press helicopters were told to ‘stay on the Jersey side’ at the very moment when the country needed an unhindered and independent press the most.” He continued, “But what I find most troubling, most disheartening, is that the country is ignoring these violations of our rights.”

“The point of solidarity with all of these movements and the point of being so upset about the lack of free speech is because of the larger goal to chip away at our rights, and this is the beginning of it,” Natalia Abrams, a University of California Los Angeles graduate and organizer with Occupy Colleges, said in a phone conversation.

“Apparently the press pass doesn’t matter anymore,” Abrams said. “It used to be able to protect you from that type of treatment.”

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