Chicago Cops Treat Journalists Better Than NYPD

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A lawyer representing a Getty photographer arrested during NATO protests in Chicago this weekend says the police have been "incredibly restrained" compared to their New York counterparts, despite the arrest and the injuring of at least one other photographer.

Compared to the 26 reporters and photographers arrested at Zuccotti Park when police cleared out protesters there in November, Mickey Osterreicher, the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, told The Atlantic Wire on Monday that "I think given the scale of what’s been going on here, it could have certainly been a lot worse – especially given the previous reputation of the Chicago police department."

According to Reuters' Kyle Peterson and Nick Carey, police estimated the crowd at 3,000 on Sunday, when protesters marched 2.5 miles through the city to protest the NATO summit. Sometime on Sunday afternoon, Getty photographer Scott Olson got hit in the head with a police baton and had to go to the hospital, where Osterreicher said doctors patched him up with glue instead of stitches and "he was actually out working last night." Another Getty photographer, freelancer Joshua Lott, got arrested Sunday night on a charge of mob action, which is actually a felony in Illinois. "My understanding is he was taking pictures of some protesters being arrested when he was arrested himself." But Osterreicher said Lott was out on bail with the charge reduced to reckless conduct, a misdemeanor.

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"I would say, without exaggeration, that there are hundreds of both credentialed and non-credentialed journalists here," Osterreicher, who was in the midst of a rally as he spoke, told The Atlantic Wire. "So the fact that they have really allowed journalists to be very, very close, standing directly between officers and protesters, for the most part they have exhibited an incredible amount of restraint." Some protesters saw it a little differently, Reuters' Peterson and Carey report:

One young man sat at the side of the street, the back of his head streaming blood. His friends said he was hit by riot police.

"This is what police brutality looks like," said Ryan Zielinski, 23, a protester who said he was hit in the chest with a baton as police pushed protesters back. "All we're trying to do is protest and the police are attacking us."

More journalists are reporting run-ins with police than the two Getty photographers Osterreicher said he had first-hand contact with. Tracey Pollock, who writes that she's a credentialed photographer for the Minnesota-based citizen journalist site The UpTake, got hit by a police officer as she filmed a scuffle between protesters and cops on Sunday. UK-based reporter Laurie Penny says she got shoved, and as we reported on Sunday, police on Saturday stopped a car full of self-styled independent journalists, including Occupy live-streamer Tim Pool, and briefly detained them.

On the whole, however, the relationship between press and police has been better during the Chicago NATO protests than it was during New York's Occupy Wall Street protests, Osterreicher said. That's partly because of public pressure to keep things peaceful. Last month, the city said that during the summit and associated protests, police wouldn't enforce a controversial law against recording police officers without their permission. And Osterreicher said he had conducted trainings with police commanders prior to the summit. "I don’t know that they’ve necessarily taken what I said to heart but it’s very clear from the mayor down to the superintendant that they’re trying to use as much restraint as possible."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.