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Occupy Wall Street protesters staged their second public action of the year this afternoon, returning to Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Upper East Side townhouse to protest the NYPD’s treatment of journalists covering the movement.
But to the disappointment of the organizers, turnout was minimal at today’s event, with fewer than 50 people gathering at the corner of 79th Street and Fifth Avenue.
A similar action in November drew hundreds, but was kept so far from Bloomberg’s residence that even the protesters most ferocious drum-circling was all but inaudible on his block.
Today the protesters were able to get a little closer, but not by much: barricades blocked pedestrian access to both sides of 79th street between Fifth and Madison, with dozens of police controlling access, two teams of scooter-cops around the corner, and an enormous NYPD mobile-command truck looming over the intersection.
John Knefel, a commedian and journalist arrested last month while covering an Occupy Wall Street protest at the World Financial Center, spoke to the crowd about his arrest and time in jail.
“The police should stop arresting journalists, but they’re not necessarily going to do that,” he said. “We need to stop being afraid of being arrested.”
Knefel’s hardly the only journalist arrested while attempting to cover the movement. In November, the New York Press Club and the New York Civil Liberties Union wrote to Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, calling for an investigation of police harassment and arrests of reporters. Kelly responded by calling on officers to cooperate with the press.
A month later, it wasn’t clear that that message had gotten through, as police once again arrested and roughed-up reporters covering an Occupy Wall Street action in Duarte Square.