Skip to main content

Journalists covering Michael Brown shooting say they were arrested

By Brian Stelter, CNN
updated 3:20 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two journalists said police in Ferguson arrested them
  • They were released with no criminal charges
  • Protests have continued since shooting death of Michael Brown

(CNN) -- Two journalists covering civil unrest following a fatal shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, said they were briefly arrested Wednesday night inside a McDonald's in the community.

Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post said on Twitter that they were arrested while they were doing work and then released within roughly 45 minutes. Neither was charged.

"This was very unnecessary," Lowery said in a telephone interview. He said he was never told why he and Reilly were detained, except that they were "trespassing" by being inside the fast-food restaurant.

Lowery recorded a portion of his interaction with an officer inside the McDonald's. In the video, which was published on The Washington Post's Web site, an officer is heard demanding that he "stop videotaping."

Journalists arrested in Ferguson
Hear police tapes from Ferguson shooting
Cops fire tear gas at protest crowds

Citizens and professional journalists generally have the right to record police activities.

Afterward, Reilly wrote in a Facebook post that a police officer "in full riot gear" "purposefully banged my head against the window on the way out and sarcastically apologized."

Reilly added, "I'm fine. But if this is the way these officers treat a white reporter working on a laptop who moved a little too slowly for their liking, I can't imagine how horribly they treat others. And if anyone thinks that the militarization of our police force isn't a huge issue in this country, I've got a story to tell you."

Lowery emphasized that he did not want his arrest to overshadow the ongoing protests in Ferguson or the treatment of the protesters. "I want this to be about the community," he said. "But this arrest is in some ways an anecdote of what's going on here."

The arrests came amid an already-tense situation between journalists and the authorities in Ferguson, the site of last Saturday's police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old, Michael Brown.

There have been several reports of reporters and the camera crews being told to leave protest areas, but no reported arrests until Wednesday.

The Ferguson police chief, Thomas Jackson, told CNN he did not know who the arresting officers were. "We had a lot of different agencies out there," Jackson said.

At 11 p.m. CDT, Jackson said 18 people had been taken into custody on Wednesday, including the two reporters.

Elsewhere in the area on Wednesday evening, a number of reporters said they were doused with tear gas when authorities tried to disperse crowds. Ash-Har Quraishi, a correspondent for Al Jazeera America who previously worked for CNN, said his crew was in a place "we believed to be safe" when people started running toward them.

"Rubber bullets were fired on us, and then a canister," he said. "We had to retreat into the neighborhood."

In a statement about the "worsening situation in Ferguson," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon urged law enforcement agencies "to keep the peace and respect the rights of residents and the press during this difficult time."

Officials at both The Washington Post and The Huffington Post issued statements that assailed the reporter arrests.

Martin Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, said in a statement Wednesday night that "there was absolutely no justification" for Lowery's arrest.

Baron noted that the reporter was "illegally instructed to stop taking video of officers. Then he followed officers' instructions to leave a McDonald's -- and after contradictory instructions on how to exit, he was slammed against a soda machine and then handcuffed. That behavior was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news."

Ryan Grim, The Huffington Post's Washington bureau chief, noted in a statement that Reilly "has reported multiple times from Guantanamo Bay." According to Grim, Reilly "said that the police resembled soldiers more than officers, and treated those inside the McDonald's as 'enemy combatants.'"

Grim concluded his statement by saying, "Police militarization has been among the most consequential and unnoticed developments of our time, and it is now beginning to affect press freedom."

Complete coverage on the Ferguson shooting and protests

Part of complete coverage on
Follow our complete coverage of the protests and aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
updated 7:32 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The father of Michael Brown spoke to supporters urging calm ahead of an expected decision from a St. Louis County grand jury.
updated 10:01 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Michael Brown, is in the final stages of negotiations with city officials to resign.
updated 7:35 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Ferguson, Missouri, is bracing for a decision from the grand jury in the case of Michael Brown. What are the possible charges for Officer Wilson?
updated 5:50 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Ahead of the grand jury's decision, Missouri has both called in the National Guard and diminished the role of the Ferguson Police Department.
updated 4:19 AM EST, Fri November 7, 2014
With a grand jury decision expected soon, Ferguson's mayor is telling authorities to expect tensions to heat back up.
updated 10:18 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Michael Brown's gunshot wounds included a shot in the hand at close range, his official autopsy shows.
updated 11:15 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
The world awaits word from a grand jury determining whether charges should be brought against a police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown.
What happened when Michael Brown met Officer Darren Wilson? A timeline from both perspectives.
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
As tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, have bubbled, one official after another has taken the lead, grappling to figure out how to stop it from coming to a boil.
updated 6:19 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
As protests continue to rage over the killing of Michael Brown, conflicting accounts and police reticence have made it difficult to ascertain what exactly happened.
A Flipboard magazine of CNN's coverage of the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown.
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
See images of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
"He was funny, silly. He would make you laugh. He'd bring people back together," his father, Michael Brown Sr., told reporters.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT