Heavy security for PEN Awards at Museum of Natural History

Josh Einiger Image
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
NYPD out in full force during PEN Awards at Museum of Natural History
Josh Einiger reports from the Upper West Side.

UPPER WEST SIDE (WABC) -- In the heart of the Upper West Side, the Museum of Natural History was more like an armed camp Tuesday night. Scores of heavily armed NYPD officers protecting what's become a very high profile target.

The so-called "PEN Awards" honored the editors of Charlie Hebdo. The Paris-based magazine was targeted in January by ISIS militants, for its depiction of the prophet Mohammed.

Police were already planning heavy security, and then came this past weekend.

"Sunday became a little more of a game changer," said Chief James Waters, of NYPD Counterterror.

Waters says Sunday's attack on an anti-Muslim group in Texas, an attack for which ISIS took credit, only ratcheted up the pressure.

Two men opened fire outside a so-called prophet Muhammad cartoon contest the group had organized in a suburb of Dallas.

NYPD officials say they've heard no specific threat against Tuesday night's event, but they weren't taking any chances either

"The threat from Texas is the active shooter, kill innocent people, that's the real threat," Waters said.

The PEN American Center says its mission is to promote free expression, and at its annual gala bestowed a prestigious award to the staff of Charlie Hebdo, for its continuing courage, in the face of devastating attacks.

"Charlie Hebdo's mission of satirizing sacred targets endured despite the firebombing of their office in 2011 and the slaughter of much of their staff in January. Few people are willing to put themselves in peril to ensure that we are all free to say what we believe," said Andrew Solomon, of The PEN America Center.