Charges filed against Ferguson reporters

Editor says charges of trespassing and interfering with police officer are ‘outrageous’

Protesters in Ferguson this week. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Protesters in Ferguson this week. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

 

Two reporters who were arrested while covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, have been charged with trespassing and interfering with a police officer.

The reporters, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J Reilly of the Huffington Post, were arrested at a McDonald’s restaurant while covering nightly demonstrations that followed the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.

In an account Mr Lowery wrote of the incident, he said he had been arrested after receiving contradictory instructions from the officers about which direction to exit the restaurant, which had served as a kind of staging area for reporters. At the time, the Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, said that there had been “absolutely no justification for his arrest.

The Post reported this week that Mr Lowery had been ordered to appear in a St Louis County municipal court on August 24th.

“Charging a reporter with trespassing and interfering with a police officer when he was just doing his job is outrageous,” Mr Baron said.

“You’d have thought law enforcement authorities would have come to their senses about this incident,” Mr Baron said in a statement to his own newspaper. “Wes Lowery should never have been arrested in the first place. That was an abuse of police authority.”

Mr Reilly said on Twitter that he had not received a summons, but the Huffington Post said a spokesman for Steve Stenger, the St Louis County executive, confirmed that Reilly would also face charges.

In a joint statement on the Huffington Post website, Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief, and Sam Stein, the senior politics editor, condemned the charges and said Mr Reilly had the organisation’s full support.

“A crime was committed at the McDonald’s, not by journalists, but by local police who assaulted both Ryan and Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post during violent arrests,” the editors said.

A spokesman for the St Louis County executive did not respond to a message seeking comment.

NYT