Student editor arrested while covering Occupy Wall Street anniversary protests

NEW YORK – New York police arrested a student journalist Monday who was covering the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

John Bolger, a reporter and co-News Editor for Hunter College’s The Envoy, was arrested at 8:10 a.m. and released shortly after 2 p.m., according to Jenady Garshofsky, the paper’s editor-in-chief.

Bolger was covering the event with two others from the paper – Garshofsky and co-News Editor Kimberly Milner. Garshofsky said she separated from Milner and Bolger and was covering the action on Broadway Street while the other two headed toward Nassau Street. None of the three reporters had NYPD-issued press credentials.

At least four other journalists were arrested Monday while covering the protests Monday, including Molly Crabapple, an illustrator for The Nation, according to reports compiled by Josh Stearns, a reporter who tracks journalist arrests. Police arrested 124 people before noon, according to an NYPD spokeswoman.

Bolger and Crabapple were both in the same area when they were arrested and were photographed being led to a police van. Crabapple, Tweeting from the van after her arrest, said she was on the sidewalk when she was arrested.

“Everyone in van just yanked off sidewalk. Police ordered to just start grabbing,” Crabapple wrote.

Michelle Hess, an associate with media-law firm Holland & Knight, is representing Bolger. The firm, working with the Student Press Law Center, has volunteer attorneys on-call throughout the U.S. to assist student journalists arrested while covering Occupy demonstrations.

It’s not clear whether Bolger has been charged with any criminal or civil offense. Hess said a clerk told her Bolger could be charged with disorderly conduct, refusal to move and obstruction of traffic.

Bolger was photographing Monday’s protests. He has reported on the Occupy movement since it began a year ago. His work on the Occupy protests in Oakland and at Baruch College received recognition in April from the James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism and Cartooning with a Conscience.

Bolger is the fifth student journalist arrested while covering Occupy protests in the last year.

In October, Middle Tennessee State University student Malina Chavez-Shannon was arrested while covering Nashville protests for class. She was detained with zip ties and said Tennessee Highway Patrol officers damaged her cameras.

That same night, Jonathan Foster, a reporter for Rochester Institute of Technology’s Reporter, was arrested while photographing an Occupy protest in Washington Square Park in New York.

In November, Alisen Redmond, a reporter for Kennesaw State University’s The Sentinel and Judy Kim, a reporter at Georgia State’s The Signal, were arrested while covering Occupy Atlanta protests. Redmond and Kim were standing in a street that police had closed to traffic and identified themselves as journalists. They each face a charge of obstructing traffic and are scheduled to appear in court Sept. 28.

Mickey Osterreicher, the National Press Photographers Association’s general counsel, said he has concerns that New York police are being aggressive and  targeting journalists.

“NYPD needs to do a better job of training officers,” Osterreicher said. “Giving people conflicting messages and arresting them for not complying is not the proper way to handle the street.”

Last year, several NPPA photographers were arrested after police gave conflicting demands that journalists didn’t follow. The NPPA met with police over the issue last year, which resulted in an order from Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly directing officers to cooperate with media.

Osterreicher advises journalists covering protests to work in pairs, have contact numbers for editors and legal aid, and to never stop rolling film, if possible.

By Jordan Bradley and Sara Gregory, SPLC staff writers. Contact Bradley by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 124.