Hundreds of people marched through Manhattan last night to protest the mass arrests in Oakland the day before. In some ways, the action was a lot like many Occupy Wall Street marches that have come before — chanting, weaving through neighborhoods, occasionally sprinting to outflank the police, finally petering out.
But there were some new elements too: More of the protesters wore black and masked their faces, a protest tactic called Black Bloc that makes it harder for police to pick individuals out of the crowd. Snapple-bottles and soda cans were thrown at police. And a well-known video journalist was assaulted by a masked marcher.
Tim Pool was covering the march last night, livestreaming his video and commentary, when a masked protester ahead of him whirled and struck him, knocking the phone he uses as a camera out of his hands. (You can see Pool’s video below.)
Luke Rudkowski, another Occupy Wall Street journalist who livestreams as We Are Change, was nearby. He pulled the attacker’s mask down, and captured him on camera. This morning, Rudkowski tweeted stills showing the attacker’s face.
Pool, though clearly shaken, was unharmed. But the scuffle illustrated a larger ambivalence within Occupy Wall Street about Pool and his camera. An admitted sympathizer but not an occupier himself, Pool has become one of the breakout media stars of the movement, profiled in dozens of outlets from the New York Times and Fast Company to Boing Boing.
But Pool isn’t universally loved by the people he’s covering. His insistence on keeping the camera rolling, even when protesters ask him to stop, and even when he’s capturing them in the middle of illegal activity, rubs some in the movement the wrong way.
The night Occupy Wall Street was evicted from Zuccotti Park, Pool stumbled on a group of occupiers in the midst of letting the air out of the tires of police cruisers. Despite the forceful requests of the sabateurs, Pool refused to stop filming. The resulting confrontation — broadcast live to thousands — cemented his reputation among some radical occupiers as untrustworthy, more interested in building his personal brand than supporting the movement.
“I and other people have been very uncomfortable with him filming us.” said Patrick Bruner, who worked as a media liason and spokesman for the occupation in its early months. “He’s aware of that.”
On last night’s march, Bruner shone a flashlight into Pool’s camera whenever it was trained on him, and was nearby when Pool was struck. Bruner says he doesn’t know who attacked Pool, but that Pool’s behavior — Bruner accuses him of helping the police make arrests — makes him unwelcome.
Pool has released a statement on last night’s attack, and suggested that his assailant may well have been an undercover police officer, taking advantage of the black bloc tactics to disrupt the livestreaming that has been central to the movement so far.
Last night’s episode speaks to an ongoing tension within Occupy Wall Street, as many protesters and organizers embrace radical transparency, while others — especially those involved in planning direct actions — see a need for secrecy and strict security culture to protect the movement from the government infiltrators almost everyone agrees must be within the movement.
Bruner warned that the ongoing police crackdowns against occupations from Oakland to New York only serve to encourage protesters to protect themselves with increasing secrecy and Black Bloc tactics:
“As we continue to face increasing police repression, you’ll see the tactics changing.”
Here’s video from Pool’s stream showing the attack.
And here’s a larger version of Rudkowski’s pictures of the man who struck Pool:
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 30, 2012