As demonstrations against Ferguson police descended into a fourth night of tear gas, rubber bullets and chaos, heavily militarized police officers briefly detained two national journalists, arrested a St. Louis alderman sharing video of clashes and tear gassed a broadcast news crew.
Police actions against the press seem to be part of the reason Governor Jay Nixon finally decided to cut his Missouri State Fair trip short. The governor says he'll arrive in St. Louis County Thursday morning to manage what's increasingly becoming a volatile, violent and devastating time in St. Louis history.
"While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law-enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern," Nixon said.
Two senior White House advisers, Valerie Jarrett and Attorney General Eric Holder, are briefing President Barack Obama on the violence that's followed the shooting death of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, which Obama has called "heartbreaking."
SWAT officers arrested Wesley Lowery, a political reporter at The Washington Post, and Ryan Reilly, a Huffington Post justice reporter, shortly before 7 p.m. while clearing out a McDonald's near the protests where they were working. The reporters say police asked for their identification and eventually arrested them when they weren't leaving quickly enough.
The journalists say they were arrested without being read their Miranda rights and eventually released with nothing -- no charges, no police report, no names of arresting officers. The Los Angeles Times says police only released them after their reporter alerted the chief of Ferguson police (His response: "Oh, God"), who then called St. Louis County police.
Here's video of the arrest:And here are the reporters' accounts via Twitter:
Was arrested— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Officers decided we weren't leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn't have been taping them.— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Officers slammed me into a fountain soda machine because I was confused about which door they were asking me to walk out of— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Apparently, in America, in 2014, police can manhandle you, take you into custody, put you in cell & then open the door like it didn't happen— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
"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," Baron said in a statement. "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."
Continue reading for video of a news crew fleeing from tear gas and updates on the arrest of Antonio French, the St. Louis city alderman-turned-citizen-journalist whose videos of protests have served as a portal into the unrest for St. Louis and the world. Police launched a tear gas canister near an Al Jazeera news crew, tear-gassing one journalist and causing the rest to flee. Reporter Ash-Har Quraishi tells Al Jazeera the news team thought they were in a safe area when the tear gas started.
"The Al Jazeera crew were in a place we believed to be safe," he said. "Soon afterwards people started running towards us, saying they were being fired on with rubber bullets. Rubber bullets were fired on us, and then a canister. We had to retreat into the neighborhood."KSDK (Channel 5), which was also filming in the area, caught their run from tear gas on tape:
@AntonioFrench being booked now. Not sure what the charge is yet. Was ordered out of his car and arrested because he "didn't listen".— Senka (@senka) August 14, 2014
French is expected to be released shortly. Here's the last video he took before being arrested: Riverfront Times had our own issues with smart-talking police while covering demonstrations in Ferguson Wednesday night...
@AntonioFrench charged with unlawful assembly.— Senka (@senka) August 14, 2014
1/2) Police forced me and @D_Towski behind police barricade. I was recording. Cop said "You're endangering my officers officers... .— Ray Downs (@RayDowns) August 14, 2014
2/2) "Get back there with the 'real' media. And get that camera out of my face, slick. I can give you a problem."— Ray Downs (@RayDowns) August 14, 2014
...and reporter Ray Downs says police threw a tear gas canister at him last night on a residential street with no one else in sight. That brought back some memories.