I wondered, the first time I attended the protests at the federal building back in July, who all these young people with PRESS emblazoned on their jackets or helmets were. I asked one such guy who he worked for.
“Independent Press Corps,” he told me. As it turned out, dozens of other young PRESS people happened to work for the same outfit, which I at first assumed was a fancy way of saying “I want to report stuff and stream it on my Instagram.”
This turned out to be naive. The IPC is an organized group in league with the activists, and it is usually their footage you see streamed online and recycled on the news: mostly innocent protestors being harassed and beaten by police.
The police indeed have tear-gassed and beaten people; there has been brutality. It is equally true, but featured less prominently in the news coverage, that activists spend hours every night menacing and setting fires to police stations and other institutions: City Hall, Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters, and last week Mayor Ted Wheeler’s apartment building (until he agreed to move out). With the PRESS crew recording part of the story and the “YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO FILM!” crew harassing other journalists, the result can be a misleading view of the protests. It’s a revolution via the cellphone video they allow you to see.
The IPC and other documentarians who are deemed sympathetic to the activists’ cause agree on certain principles. You do not show activists’ faces. You only show activists in a defensive position: responding to, rather than inciting, violence. You enhance what can appear to be police brutality, e.g., activists defending themselves with homemade shields, often bearing the anarchist circle-A, against police. The shields are largely ineffective for personal defense, but extremely effective for optics, and that’s precisely the point. If a member of the IPC is arrested, he or she will be protected.