Two journalists covering the Michael Brown shooting case, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post, reported that they were arrested and released by the Ferguson Police Department Wednesday night. Lowery and Reilly said they were detained after filming officers inside of a McDonald's and then not leaving fast enough when ordered out.
SWAT just invade McDonald's where I'm working/recharging. Asked for ID when I took photo. pic.twitter.com/FOIsMnBwHy— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 13, 2014
Officers decided we weren't leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn't have been taping them.— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Both reporters said they were assaulted during their arrests:
Unfortunately my last Vine featuring the officer who assaulted me was deleted when other my phone died.— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 14, 2014
Also Ryan Reilly of Huff Po. Assaulted and arrested— 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
Reilly called in to MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes and described the arrest. An officer started counting Reilly down, then grabbed his belongings, forced them into his bag, and arrested him. According to Reilly the officer used his finger to create a pressure point in his neck and slammed him against a wall. "The worst part was he slammed my head against the glass purposefully on the way out of McDonald's and then sarcastically apologized for it," he said.
Matt Pearce at the Los Angeles Times said he spoke to the Ferguson police chief, who was shocked when he heard that two journalists had been arrested. "I told them to release them," he told Pearce, referring to the riot command. The chief said the two were arrested "probably by somebody who didn't know better."
Lowery and Reilly are among the many national journalists who have been reporting from Ferguson in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer, and the riots and protests that followed. After their arrest, Christina Coleman of KSDK (an NBC affiliate) was hit with tear gas:
In the last few days reporters have said they were barred from entering the city. Reporters who have made it in have been tear gassed and threatened by police officers, alongside the residents of Ferguson. What reporters haven't received is any answers.
Detained, booked, given answers to no questions. Then just let out— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
And while this experience (being arrested, but released and unharmed) doesn't compare to the experience of many of the protesters, it adds to concerns from journalists that the Ferguson Police Department isn't committed to allowing reporters to do their jobs. In a statement released Wednesday night, National Association of Black Journalists President Bob Butler said the organization's members "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."
Earlier today the police department and the city asked protesters not to meet after dark. The question now is what will happen to people who aren't journalists.
Update 12:20 a.m.: It isn't just journalists. St. Louis alderman Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) was also arrested during the protests, according to multiple reports.
Reilly and Lowery have also released more information about their arrests. Huffington Post released a statement saying the "police resembled soldiers more than officers." Lowery posted a first-person account on the Post website, complete with video of an officer (who does look like a soldier) hustling him out of the McDonald's.
“I hope you’re happy with yourself,” one officer told me. And I responded: “This story’s going to get out there. It’s going to be on the front page of The Washington Post tomorrow.”
And he said, “Yeah, well, you’re going to be in my jail cell tonight.”
Finally, there has been a lot of talk online about what politicians are going to do about it. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced late in the evening that he is canceling his planned trip to the state fair tomorrow, to go to Ferguson instead.
STL County Police Chief Belmar: "We've done everything we can to demonstrate a remarkable amount of restraint." pic.twitter.com/97AcVPPZGK— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) August 14, 2014
The President, who is vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, has been briefed on the situation. However, he and his staff are taking heat for a statement, released in the heat of the evening, that gleefully describes the birthday party he attended with his wife, as well as Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. The "tone deaf" statement, which does not mention Ferguson or anything else unpleasant, ends, "The Obamas danced nearly every song. A good time was had by all."
This post has been updated.