Mother Jones' Gavin Aronsen wrote a first-hand account of being apprehended at the Occupy Oakland mass arrest on Saturday, along with at least five other credentialed journalists and 400 protesters. Aronsen says this was in direct violation of Oakland Police Department's media relations policy, which states "media shall never be targeted for dispersal or enforcement action because of their status."
The other journalists arrested include Vivian Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle, Kristin Hanes of KGO Radio, John C. Osborn of East Bay Express, Yael Chanoff of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and graphic journalist and previous arrestee Susie Cagle.
Credentials were reportedly irrelevant to OPD officers:
When Hanes displayed hers, an officer shook his head. "That's not an Oakland pass," he told her. "You're getting arrested." (She had a press pass issued by San Francisco, but not Oakland, police.) Another officer rejected my credentials, and I began interviewing soon-to-be-arrested protesters standing nearby. About five minutes later, an officer grabbed my arm and zip-tied me. Around the same time, Ho—who did have official OPD credentials—was also apprehended.
As I waited in line to be processed and transported to jail, Ho approached me with an officer who had released her from custody. The two explained to my arresting officer that I was with the media. "Oh, he's with the media?" the officer replied, although I had already repeatedly told him as much and my credentials had been plainly visible all night. He appeared ready to release me, until a nearby officer piped in, without explanation: "He's getting arrested."
Aronsen writes that most of the reporters were promptly released at the scene, except him and Chanoff, who were taken to the Santa Rita jail. Cagle was told by an officer that he was "doing her a 'favor'" by releasing her.
About Aronsen's release:
After spending about an hour locked up alone in a drunk-tank cell block, OPD Sergeant Jeff Thomason arrived to release me, thanks to a call from Mother Jones co-Editor in Chief Monika Bauerlein. "You probably shouldn't have been in here to begin with," he told me apologetically as he escorted me in his personal car back to the scene of my arrest to retrieve my backpack where I'd stashed my steno pad. But for the time-being, it was irretrievable under a massive pile of occupiers' bags in the back of a police van.
He also notes:
Last week, the United States dropped 27 spots in Reporters Without Borders' annual press freedom index due to police treatment of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street movement. By Josh Stearns' count, more than three dozen reporters have been arrested since the movement began last year in Manhattan.
Additionally, Aronsen speculates that tensions are likely high at OPD due to the fact that a federal judge stripped the department of its power last week due to it being "woefully behind its peers around the state and nation." The department has apparently failed to follow through with promises to improve its conduct after the city settled a 2003 civil suit over a case involving accusations that officers planted drugs on suspects in East Oakland.