Journalists' Arrests In Ferguson Spark Media Outrage Over Increased Police Militarization

Human Rights

Police arrested two reporters covering the escalating demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., yesterday over last week’s fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, The Guardian reports.

The Washington Post deplored the arrest of reporter Wesley Lowery as “illegal” and an “an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news.” Similarly, The Huffington Post said it was disturbed by the arrest and assault of journalist Ryan J. Reilly, declaring that police militarization is now a press freedom issue.

Reilly and Lowery were working on their laptops in a McDonalds when SWAT officers barged in armed with weapons and ordered them off the premises. Reilly began taking photographs and, in response, the police demanded to see his ID; the reporter declined. Subsequently, Reilly was arrested--and allegedly assaulted--for failing to pack up his belongings fast enough.

"The worst part was [the cop] slammed my head against the glass purposefully on the way out of McDonald's and then sarcastically apologized for it,” Reilly said

Similarly, after his release, Lowery shared details of his encounter in a number of tweets:

“Officers decided we weren't leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn't have been taping them. Officers slammed me into a fountain soda machine because I was confused about which door they were asking me to walk out of… Got no explanation at any point why in custody other than "trespassing" - at a Mcdonalds where we were customers.. Really upset, and have conflicting emotions - but can't shake anger that (part) of story about my stupid detention and not about Ferguson,” he said on Twitter.

The reporters were released only after journalist Matt Pearce from the LA Times called the Ferguson chief police to report what had happened. Their detention highlights the town’s increased police presence where dozens of residents have been attacked and injured by rubber bullets and pepper spray, Huff Post reports.

What's more, reporters have shared images and videos live from Ferguson showing snipers overlooking protestors and tear gas being fired at demonstrators.
Tension continues to grow over the shooting of Michael Brown as details surrounding the unarmed 18-year-old's death remain sketchy, particularly amidst claims he had raised his arms before police fatally shot him.
Police have yet to release the name of the officer who shot Brown.

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