At a party a few weeks ago, I met a photojournalist and videographer named Erin Siegal, who is working on a video project with a friend of mine. By one of those 'small world' coincidences, we turned out to have another friend in common — who happened to have come to New York for the party, so I got to witness their reunion.
Today, Erin was arrested by the NYPD while covering a protest outside the Mexican consulate. According to initial reports, police first ripped off her press passes - including an official pass issued by the city of New York - then took her camera before arresting her. I don't think it's overly cynical to suggest that with her camera in the hands of the NYPD, her 'beautiful photographs' of the police at work may abruptly disappear.
I've seen the NYPD at a number of demonstrations. By and large, I've been fairly impressed by the calm and professionalism of the rank-and-file cops. I've also more than once been shocked by the behavior of senior officers - the "white shirts" - including one commander who the sight of a peaceful and orderly crowd seemed to drive into a state of red-faced rage that came within a hair's breadth of actual apoplexy. Today, the NYPD apparently lost it again. There can be no excuse for arresting a working journalist, least of all one as serious and professional as Erin.
The demonstration that Erin was covering was called to protest the recent violence in Oaxaca, where a number of demonstrators and an American photojournalist named Brad Will were killed, apparently by plainclothes police or paramilitaries. It seems that there's more than one way to silence a journalist. In New York City, they take their cameras. In Oaxaca, they take their lives.
Update: 31 Oct 2006 Apparently my comment about "white shirts" was inspired: Fred Askew's photograph of Erin being arrested shows two white-shirted officers directing the arrest.