Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stop The Presses

Police in Ferguson, Missouri, detained reporters who were trying to cover the unrest in the St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black man was killed by police last weekend.

One of those reporters was Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post:

For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald’s a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown’s shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby. But inside there’s WiFi and outlets, so it’s common for reporters to gather there.

That was the case Wednesday. My phone was just about to die, so as I charged it, I used the time to respond to people on Twitter and do a little bit of a Q&A since I wasn’t out there covering the protests.

As I sat there, many armed officers came in — some who were dressed as normal officers, others who were dressed with more gear.

Initially, both Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and I were asked for identification. I was wearing my lanyard, but Ryan asked why he had to show his ID. They didn’t press the point, but one added that if we called 911, no one would answer.

Then they walked away. Moments later, the police reemerged, telling us that we had to leave. I pulled my phone out and began recording video.

An officer with a large weapon came up to me and said, “Stop recording.”

I said, “Officer, do I not have the right to record you?”

He backed off but told me to hurry up. So I gathered my notebook and pens with one hand while recording him with the other hand.

As I exited, I saw Ryan to my left, having a similar argument with two officers. I recorded him, too, and that angered the officer. As I made my way toward the door, the officers gave me conflicting information.

One instructed me to exit to my left. As I turned left, another officer emerged, blocking my path.

“Go another way,” he said.

As I turned, my backpack, which was slung over one shoulder, began to slip. I said, “Officers, let me just gather my bag.” As I did, one of them said, “Okay, let’s take him.”

Multiple officers grabbed me. I tried to turn my back to them to assist them in arresting me. I dropped the things from my hands.

“My hands are behind my back,” I said. “I’m not resisting. I’m not resisting.” At which point one officer said: “You’re resisting. Stop resisting.”

That was when I was most afraid — more afraid than of the tear gas and rubber bullets.

After being taken to the police station, placed in a holding cell, they were released without charges or an explanation as to why they were detained in the first place.

For whatever reason, the police did not want to have their actions recorded and reported.  When that happens, there’s a much deeper problem than keeping order and enforcing the law.

The reporters and their arrest are not the story.  The tension between the police and the civilian population goes a lot deeper than on-edge police in riot gear sweeping out a fast-food restaurant.  As others have pointed out, including myself, the double standard for provoking a response from law enforcement — Cliven Bundy vs. the people of Ferguson, Missouri — is glaring and troubling.

2 barks and woofs on “Stop The Presses

  1. Seems like these public servants that are paid by the American taxpayers have skipped right over the First Amendment.

  2. This is just awful. Why do our police need to have all this military equipment? Why can’t you protest an injustice? Looks like Selma, Alabama with bigger guns.Police are supposed to protect us. This is way out of hand.

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