THE WASHINGTON POST’S WESLEY LOWERY AND THE HUFFINGTON POST’S RYAN J. REILLY WERE RELEASED WITHOUT CHARGES
After police killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown last weekend in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo. protests erupted, then violence broke out and looting ensued.
In the time since Brown’s death, journalists have descended on the town to cover those events and protesters have continued to call for justice in the killing of the college-bound teen. Meanwhile, law enforcement has become increasingly hostile to the media and demonstrators alike.
IN A SEPARATE INCIDENT, POLICE FIRED TEAR GAS AND BEAN BAGS AT AN AL-JAZEERA AMERICA TELEVISION CREW
The most recent evidence of that hostility came Thursday with the arrest of two reporters at a Ferguson McDonald’s — near where Brown was shot and killed — and a video showing police in riot gear firing tear gas and rubber bullets at a television crew, then dismantling their equipment after they fled for safety.
In any free country the balance between providing police protection with integrity and over-zealous enforcement is delicate. It is one thing for officers to act when there is reasonable suspicion; it is quite another to abuse that discretion by chilling free speech and creating a climate of fear and distrust under the pretext of safety and security.”
– Mickey H. Osterreicher, General Counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, from a letter to Chief Thomas Jackson Ferguson Police Department
Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly were both arrested at a McDonald’s near the scene of demonstrations as they tried to work and recharge their cell phones. Both media organizations condemned the arrests. And both reporters were interviewed on MSNBC on Thursday describing their violent removal by heavily armed police in riot gear.
He was illegally instructed to stop taking video of officers. Then he followed officers’ instructions to leave a McDonald’s — and after contradictory instructions on how to exit, he was slammed against a soda machine and then handcuffed. That behavior was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news. The physical risk to Wesley himself is obvious and outrageous.”
– Martin Baron, Executive Editor of The Washington Post, from a statement about the arrest of reporter Wesley Lowery
Journalists have a constitutionally protected right to work without the government interference, We call on — and fully expect — the authorities to investigate what appears to be a violation of the First Amendment and to hold the officers involved to account, if necessary.”
– Bob Butler, President of the National Association of Black Journalists, from a statement about the arrests of Lowery and Reilly
Lowery posted a video to Twitter showing an officer demanding that he leave the restaurant and ordering him to stop filming, prior to his arrest. Reilly posted photos of an officer he says assaulted him during the arrest — a law enforcement official Reilly also says ignored repeated requests to identify himself by name and badge number.
Compared to some others who have come into contact with the police department, they came out relatively unscathed, but that in no way excuses the false arrest or the militant aggression toward these journalists. Ryan, who has reported multiple times from Guantanamo Bay, said that the police resembled soldiers more than officers, and treated those inside the McDonald’s as ‘enemy combatants.’”
– Ryan Grim, Huffington Post Washington D.C. Bureau Chief, from a statement about the arrests