Since chaos erupted in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., more than a week ago, journalists from all over the world have flocked to the scene. They have also, increasingly, become the target of police arrests.
Overnight, several journalists reported being detained, threatened or otherwise prevented from covering the unfolding story. The arrest late Sunday night of three reporters — Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated, Chicago-based Financial Times reporter Neil Munshi and Rob Crilly, a foreign correspondent for the Telegraph (and no stranger to war zones) — reportedly came as the journalists attempted to gather more information while police faced off with protesters.
They were ordered arrested by Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who has been serving as a critical bridge between the Ferguson community and law enforcement.
Just cuffed and searched as we said we were leaving as he asked. Johnson was following us saying bring the … https://t.co/K106v4t5Qu
— neiL Munshi (@neiLmunshi) August 18, 2014
About 25 minutes after the gas attack, with the smoke cleared and the area secure, we attempted to go back down the street to report. — Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) August 18, 2014
Cops stopped us. We explained ourselves. They said to walk away. We said why. They said command center was attacked. I said no it wasn’t. — Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) August 18, 2014
The journalists said that they were released shortly after their arrests, but not before plastic “handcuffs” were put around their wrists.
Capt Johnson furious at journals getting in the way.
— Rob Crilly (@robcrilly) August 18, 2014
Threats, tear gas and even arrest have become occupational hazards for reporters in Ferguson. Some journalists have been seen wearing bulletproof vests and gas masks, as the risk of injury by real bullets, rubber bullets and tear gas is high.
In many cases, journalists eager to get the story have run into agitated cops worried by the threat of molotov cocktails, rocks, gunfire and general chaos.
Late Sunday night, a volunteer radio reporter operating a popular video livestream of events in Ferguson was threatened by an unnamed police officer.
“Get the f— out of here and keep that light off or you’re getting shelled with this,” the officer appeared to yell. Several other reporters also appeared to be the in the area, and the tense exchange was broadcast to thousands through the Argus Radio livestream channel.
Despite repeatedly identifying himself as a member of the media, Mustafa Hussein found himself threatened with a gun for having the keylight on his camera on.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted that police threatened to spray him with mace if he didn’t “get back.”
If you walk about 100 feet from OK’ed press area you find yourself lit up by a spotlight and a squad of police on hair trigger. — Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) August 18, 2014
All this comes after two reporters were arrested inside a McDonald’s last week during largely peaceful protests in Ferguson. One of those journalists, The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery, recorded the exchange with police who said they were clearing the restaurant where Lowery and the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly were working.
According to Lowery, police slammed him into a soda machine, then arrested him after giving him conflicting direction about where to exit the McDonald’s.