I’ve always suspected that Mayor Bloomberg’s handlers keep him in a giant plastic bubble cut off from world events, but last night confirmed my suspicions when the mayor delivered one of the strangest, tone-deaf performances of his political career. While Occupy chapters in nearly two dozen cities participated in direct actions to reclaim foreclosed homes on behalf of needy families, Bloomberg invited an exclusive media pool to dine at Gracie Mansion for his annual holiday press party, and in order to make light of his recent bad publicity.
Bloomberg has been widely criticized for his handling of Occupy Wall Street’s eviction from Zuccotti Park last month in which reporters were denied access to the park, roughly treated by police, and in some cases, threatened by officers. Rosie Gray, a writer for the Village Voice tried to beg her way into gaining access to the plaza. “I’m press!” Gray reportedly exclaimed, to which a female officer replied, “not tonight.”
Josh Harkinson from Mother Jones had a more intimidating encounter with police. When an officer physically dragged him away from the park, Harkinson demanded to know why he couldn’t observe NYPD actions. “Because this is a frozen zone. It’s a police action going on. You could be injured,” the officer replied.
“What’s your name?” asked Harkinson, to which the officer replied:
“Watch your back.”
In a statement released from Bloomberg’s office on November 17, spokesperson Stu Loesner casually admitted that accredited journalists have been arrested by the city’s police force. Loesner clumsily tried to silence criticism of the mayor by pointing out “only five of the 26 arrested reporters actually have valid NYPD-issued press credentials.” In this statement, Loesner incorrectly assumed the twenty-six arrests all occurred in New York City, thereby accidentally admitting the city had knowingly arrested credentialed press.
The harassment of press opened up new discussion about the city’s procedures to accredit reporters. New York City is famously stingy with handing out press passes, especially to nontraditional outlets such as blogs. I personally had to fight tooth and nail to get mine, and the application process borders on insane. A reporter must present articles, commentaries, books, photographs, videos, films or audio published or broadcast within the twenty-four months preceding the press card application, sufficient to show that applicant covered in person six or more events occurring on separate days. Additionally, applicants must prove they cover events where police lines have been established by the City of New York.