Watch Police in Ferguson Arrest, Tear Gas Journalists [VIDEO]

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Demonstrators protest Antonio French's arrest outside the Ferguson Police Department. French, an alderman in St. Louis city, is a former journalist and has been filming the unrest. - RAY DOWNS
  • Ray Downs
  • Demonstrators protest Antonio French's arrest outside the Ferguson Police Department. French, an alderman in St. Louis city, is a former journalist and has been filming the unrest.

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.

Read all Riverfront Times coverage of the unrest in Ferguson and the aftermath of Michael Brown's shooting.

"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: Martin Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, was quick to excoriate police for the decision to arrest journalists in Ferguson, which, in addition to Tehran, Iran, is only the second city where a staffer from the prestigious news outlet has been arrested this year.

"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: In a move that left onlookers across the county shocked and upset, police also arrested Alderman Antonio French, a former journalist whose video updates on standoffs with police have opened a vital portal into the unrest. As of 6:20 a.m. French was still in jail, charged with unlawful assembly, and protesters gathered in front of the police station all night to demand his release. Followers noticed French was uncharacteristically silent on Vine, a video-sharing network, for about two hours before French's wife confirmed on Twitter that he'd been arrested from his car on then-unknown charges. 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...

...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.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.

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