As New York City police arrested two "Occupy Wall Street" protesters Wednesday, a group of fellow demonstrators immediately encircled the scene, many holding up their camera phones.
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Meanwhile, a city police officer pulled out his own camera and filmed the arrests on Liberty Street in the Financial District. Four people total were arrested Wednesday, police said.
As the protest continues through its fourth week, its narrative has been largely driven by images and video released by the protesters on YouTube and the police through the mainstream media.
One YouTube video that appears to show New York Police Department Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna pepper-spraying four young women has had more than 1.4 million views. The incident was discussed at length by Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" and helped propel the movement into the national media.
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office and NYPD have said they are probing that incident.
At Zuccotti Park, there are regular announcements encouraging protesters to contribute footage for a media working group to digitize and distribute, said Katie Davison, a protester who is part of the movement's media working group.
"One thing we found very quickly, especially as arrests became violent, is that we had the documentation to defend protesters who were being unfairly arrested, to provide evidence that they were well within their bounds and acting properly," said Davison, a 31-year-old Los Angeles, Calif.-based filmmaker and director. Video has also proved useful to the NYPD.
The police department dispatches photographers and videographers from the Technical Assistance Response Unit, known as TARU, to take pictures of large-scale events including demonstrations and protests such as "Occupy Wall Street," said Paul Browne, a spokesman for the NYPD.
"Officers are aware of the fact that they are being photographed," said Browne, adding, "They may not have been aware of the extent of personal disposable income among the demonstrators as reflected in the quantity and quality of their pricey equipment."
The NYPD released video of the arrest of 700 protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge after protesters accused them of tricking and trapping them.
Police said in a news release accompanying the video that it shows "police warnings prior to arrests." It is unclear which side benefits more from having cameras available.
"It has often been the case that cameras vindicate the police rather than indict them," said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor in John Jay College's Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration and a former police officer.
But O'Donnell also suggested that the preponderance of protesters armed with cameras has likely deterred law-enforcement officers from wearing riot gear to avoid the appearance of a "big-brother state."