Having heard that the president would be in the city, I headed to midtown around 7pm, and happened to come out of the subway just as the Occupy Wall Street protesters were marching toward the hotel, where they arrived around 7:30. Being wary of any pens or cages set up by agents of the government, I opted not to remain in the "free speech zone" and walked around for a bit. When I returned to the site at around 8:30, the police had already barricaded the protesters into the frozen zone. Two hours later, they were finally allowed to leave, following their illegal detention. I asked one of the protesters who had been trapped in the "frozen zone" what happened. Here's the video:
Police detained around 100 people in this so-called "frozen zone" for nearly three hours. From Mother Jones:
Outside a Manhattan fundraiser attended by President Barack Obama last night, the New York City Police Department deployed a new and legally questionable tactic against Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and the press. . . . Protesters in the NYPD's free speech zone were trapped there. Not only could nobody enter after a certain point, but for about an hour and a half, nobody could leave. When I arrived outside the Obama event, a $1000-a-head fundraiser at the Sheraton New York, I found that the police had cordoned off the sidewalk a block in all directions and were not admitting the press.As The Gothamist reports, members of the press were not allowed anywhere near the frozen area and were kept from reporting on the illegal detention:
Several reporters were kept away from the area by police, and MSNBC's Meg Robertson tells Capital New York, "I identified myself to a number of NYPD as a member of the press and they would not let me close to the penned in area."From the New York Times:
Another journalist, Andrew Katz, says, "One officer actually said I could go into the kettle where the protesters were, but [another] officer grabbed my arm, and then [Harkinson], and said we had to leave the area. Three officers, including a female officer who gripped her arm around my hip, escorted us a block down to 52nd Street behind a set of barricades."
The complaints of press restrictions comes after NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly issued a carefully-worded memo instructing police not to interfere with working press.
More than 100 Occupy Wall Street protesters marched to a Midtown hotel on Wednesday night to protest a fund-raising event for President Obama. Escorted by police vehicles as they helped snarl traffic across the Times Square area, beginning at Bryant Park, the group settled in front of barricades on the southwest corner of 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue, in view of the Sheraton hotel at which Mr. Obama was expected to appear by 9 p.m.
Demonstrators held signs that leveled some of the Occupy protest’s most pointed criticism to date of the president. “Obama is a corporate puppet,” one said. “War crimes must be stopped, no matter who does them,” read another, beside head shots of President George W. Bush and President Obama . . .
Many protesters chafed at the sight of barricaded pens near the hotel, but a majority decided to stay, given how close they were to their destination. Shortly before 9 p.m., as the police cut off traffic and began making final preparations for the president’s arrival, officers informed demonstrators that the area had been designated a “frozen zone” until the president’s departure: They were not allowed to leave their enclosure, bound by three lines of barricades and a Chase bank. Some protesters tried to break through, but were swiftly rebuffed by officers, who shoved them back to their initial perches.