Police in Ferguson, Missouri, arrested two reporters Wednesday night as protests over the police shooting of an unarmed teenager continued for the fifth day. The journalists, the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly, were only detained for about 15 minutes before being released, but the incident provoked widespread outrage over the Ferguson police’s increasingly brutal tactics.
In a first-person account of the incident, Lowery wrote that armed officers stormed a McDonald's in which he and Reilly were working and demanded to see ID. They then told Lowery to stop video recording them, and finally they ordered the reporters to leave and claimed they weren’t leaving fast enough. According to other reports, the Ferguson police also demanded that an MSNBC camera man and a local Fox News crew take down their cameras. Police hit the crew of Al Jazeera America with tear gas and dismantled their gear.
In an editor’s note following the story about Lowery’s arrest, Washington Post editor Marty Baron wrote, “The physical risk to Wesley himself is obvious and outrageous.”
It was also illegal.
The arrest and intimidation of journalists for documenting the events in Ferguson is particularly disturbing because it interferes with the ability of the press to hold the government accountable. But actually, anyone—journalist or otherwise—can take a photo of a police officer.