NYPD Tackled and Arrested Journalists Covering Latest Encampment Sweep

The journalists said the arrests interfered with their ability to document the police raid at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Meghnad Bose and Uzma Afreen   ·   May 8, 2024
hands holding yellow camera in a plastic trash bag, press badge visible
Photojournalist Josh Pacheco recovers their camera from an NYPD bag after being released from arrest on May 8, 2024. | Uzma Afreen

New York City Police Department officers tackled and arrested two credentialed members of the press late Tuesday night, when the journalists were covering a pro-Palestine protest outside the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in midtown Manhattan.

Photojournalists Josh Pacheco and Olga Fedorova were covering the NYPD’s clearing of the pro-Palestine encampment at FIT, which is part of the State University of New York System. As Israel seized control of Gaza’s Rafah border crossing, a critical point of entry for food and humanitarian supplies, the NYPD carried out its latest sweep of a campus-based solidarity encampment, arresting around 50 demonstrators, per current reporting. Within seconds of each other, Pacheco and Fedorova were accosted by police officials, pushed to the ground, and arrested, the journalists told New York Focus.

“I was identifying myself as press and I had my colleagues on the side of the road telling them that I was press,” Pacheco told New York Focus at about 2:45 am on Wednesday, minutes after the NYPD released them from 1 Police Plaza. But the police arrested them regardless. Pacheco alleged that police kicked them multiple times while they laid on the ground.

NYPD was making arrests and had a woman by her hair, dragging her, and then she was on the ground. I was photographing and filming that, and that’s when I got tackled to the ground,” said Fedorova. She added that she had immediately identified herself as a member of the press and had her press badge visible on her. “To no avail,” she said.

The NYPD did not respond to New York Focus’s request for comment before publication.

Fedorova said her first instinct on being pushed to the ground was “to film the person who did it, which was an NYPD officer.”

Independent photojournalist Jon Farina took a video of the incident, which shows police tackling the two journalists to the ground. Speaking to New York Focus, Farina said that seconds after he filmed Pacheco being arrested, he saw “an officer come with his baton and shove Olga down to the ground.” He said he screamed, “Press, press, leave her alone,” but they took her away.

A man in a black t shirt with a camera shows his phone to a woman with brown hair in a camo jacket.
Jon Farina shows Olga Fedorova his video of her arrest. | Uzma Afreen

“Once the police had their protestors loaded [onto a bus], a huge crowd of the protesters decided to move into the roadway to stop the bus from leaving. The police started shoving people behind and making way for the bus,” said Caroline Bissonnette, a freelance reporter who was also filming the arrests. “The photographers also got into the roadway to get photographs of people being loaded into the bus, and that’s when they got arrested.”

Earlier this year, the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists alerted Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez to the NYPD’s treatment of journalist Reed Dunlea, who was tackled and arrested while covering another pro-Palestinian demonstration. As the organizations pointed out, the NYPD had recently settled a lawsuit over its treatment of photojournalists — and agreed to reform its practices as a result.

“I think the NYPD needs to be held accountable for their treatment of the press, for limiting the information reaching the public, and for essentially punishing journalists for doing their job and preventing us from doing our job,” said Fedorova.

Pacheco said that the arrests impeded their ability to document the NYPD sweep of the encampment. “My work is being featured in a documentary about the freedom of the press,” they said. “And now, I’m here experiencing exactly that.”

Meghnad Bose is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in New York City. He is pursuing a Master’s in Data Journalism at Columbia University.
Uzma Afreen is a multimedia journalist from India and a student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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