Arrested Ferguson protester: ‘We had done nothing wrong’

August 14, 2014
Meghan Flannery, a protester in Ferguson, Mo., was arrested Wednesday night. She describes the impact of the militarized police presence in Ferguson and what it was like to be arrested. (The Washington Post)

Everybody was leaving, Meghan Flannery said.

Some of the people who had attended Wednesday’s protests with her in Ferguson, Mo., were already sitting in the car; Flannery herself was walking near the vehicle, she said, when police surrounded it and arrested the entire group.

“We were on our way to our car, two people were already buckled in, ready to go,” Flannery said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “And then it was time to be arrested.”

She was among those arrested during protests this week after the Saturday shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a Ferguson police officer.

This, she said, is what she remembers most clearly about Wednesday night: “When the tanks had rolled in, they were all in the street. And immediately, the whole crowd dropped to their knees and put their arms up.

“So what I see, when I see this night, is a line of essentially soldiers and a line of civilians, I would call them, on their knees, with their hands up.”

Flannery is a former teacher who works at an education nonprofit with Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman, who also was arrested Wednesday.

Flannery was charged with a noise violation and with failing to follow a direct police order. She was released on $300 bail.

“The first thing going through my mind was that I was angry that it had come to that. Because we had done nothing wrong,” she said. “I still believe we had done nothing wrong, and I don’t think the charges are going to stick. And so I was more just angry that the whole situation was happening. Kind of couldn’t believe that it was happening.”

Michael Brown, 18, was fatally shot in an apparent confrontation with police.

In the days since, protesters have gathered in Ferguson, the site of the shooting. The name of the officer involved has not been released.

“I want people to keep their eyes on it,” Flannery said. “I want people to know what’s happening in St. Louis. I want people to form their own opinions based on the facts. But, most of all, I want people to know that what we’re fighting for is justice for Michael Brown, and that’s the bottom line. Nothing else aside from that. Just justice.”

Michael Powers — legislative director to Lewis Reed, president of the Board of Aldermen — also was among those arrested Wednesday night. He described a restless night in jail, where people were jogging in place to stay warm.

“Everybody was freezing,” Powers said. “People were using toilet paper and wrapping their arms with it.”

When he was released, Powers said, an officer insinuated that the facility’s air conditioning could be used as a “tactic to punish.”

“Having the world see St. Louis in this light, in this militarized way, is just sad for all of us, I think,” Powers said. “Because this is not who we are. We are not this divided. We are not this scared.”

Sarah Larimer is a general assignment reporter for the Washington Post.
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Mark Berman · August 14, 2014