Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were briefly arrested by St. Louis County Sheriff’s Officers in Ferguson, Missouri Wednesday night as clashes between police and protesters entered its fourth night.
The two reporters said they were working in a McDonald’s when SWAT officers entered the restaurant and encouraged customers to leave.
Lowery said that request quickly turned to a demand, and that he was placed in restraints after he stopped to straighten a backpack that had fallen from his back while exiting the scene. Reilly said police told them they were arrested for “not packing their bags quick enough’’ when leaving the restaurant.
Both were later released after a request from the Ferguson police chief to the sheriff’s department.
Lowery, a former Boston Globe reporter, told Boston.com that readers following this story should remain focused on the residents of Ferguson.
“For those not in Ferguson, the arrest of Ryan and I should shed light on the state of things here,’’ Lowery told Boston.com “If two reporters can be arrested and manhandled for doing their jobs then imagine the way the residents are being treated. This story should be about the people of Ferguson. The Washington Post will stand up for me, Huffington Post has Ryan’s back. But who is looking out for the residents dealing with this every single day?’’
St. Louis Post-Dispatch photojournalist Robert Cohen snapped this photo of Reilly’s arrest:
Ferguson’s police chief told LA Times reporter Matt Pearce that St. Louis County Sheriff’s deputies were handling the protests in the city Wednesday night.
Shortly after his release, Reilly told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes he believed his arresting officers — who allegedly refused to identify themselves — were angry that he did not provide an ID when asked.
“Which is my right to refuse, since I wasn’t doing anything wrong,’’ he said.
Lowery later told Rachel Maddow that police officers did not give him an opportunity to peacefully leave the restaurant.
“I don’t believe Ryan and I did anything that warranted being taken into custody,’’ he said, noting his press credentials were always visible around his neck. “Frankly, I’d rather be on the streets talking to protesters, not sitting here on this chair talking on the phone about me.’’
“We are appalled by the conduct of the officers involved. That behavior was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news,’’ Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron said in a statement. “We are relieved that Wesley is going to be OK.’’
Earlier on Wednesday night, Lowery had this exchange on Twitter:
.@tasha_paige easy answer, i'm a black man - the police— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 13, 2014
On Thursday morning, Lowery was back on Twitter to discuss some of the media coverage surrounding his arrest. He tagged NBC’s Joe Scarborough and conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch while requesting that anyone with questions or speculation about what happened during his arrest contact him before speaking about it.
Talking heads: if you want to ask theoretical questions/speculate about what I did/should of done, feel free to call me first #journalism— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Lowery called out Loesch a second time, embedding one of her tweets about the arrest and said she was “wildly speculating’’ about the incident.
In which someone not here in Ferguson yet wildly speculating to 222k people subtweet lectures me on "journalism" https://t.co/BiXW9HxZCA— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Also on Thursday morning, the Associated Press reported that President Barack Obama had been briefed on the protests late Wednesday night and had scheduled another briefing for Thursday.