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 9:32 AM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
In a classic study on race, psychologists staged an experiment with two photographs that produced a surprising result.
updated 9:15 AM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
Days after he shot Michael Brown, Officer Darren Wilson was mowing his lawn when told his address was circulating online. Soon after, he went into hiding.
updated 12:02 PM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
The last thing an attorney might expect to receive at a deposition is a brain, but that's what the man said he was handing over.
updated 8:00 PM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Did Officer Wilson shoot Michael Brown dead as he staggered to the ground, hobbled by gunshot wounds? Or, did the 18-year-old aggressively charge at Wilson?
updated 11:15 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
The Jenkinses knew their restaurant was not so badly damaged. They'd seen video of protesters locking arms in front of the place to protect it from vandals.
updated 7:59 PM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson said that he's not tormented by that fateful encounter in suburban St. Louis last summer.
updated 8:06 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
President Barack Obama said he has "no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities."
updated 10:15 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Some people here just wanted the drama to end. Others say it can never end, not as long as a white cop can shoot an unarmed black teenager without consequences.
updated 8:40 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Michael Brown's stepfather consoled the dead teen's distraught mother and then turned to the crowd of demonstrators, saying, "Burn this mother f---er down."
News about the grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson spread quickly nationwide, spurring spontaneous rallies. See a collection of reactions from across the country.
updated 12:24 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Buildings burned. Shops looted. Cars destroyed.
If you are in Ferguson or have witnessed protests where you live, share your story with CNN. Personal essays and video commentary are also welcome.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Transcripts of testimony that jurors heard considering Michael Brown's death have been released to the public.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Photos of Officer Wilson taken after his altercation with Michael Brown have been released.
updated 7:34 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
His mother ran down the street, tears streaming down her face. His father said he was "devastated."
updated 7:13 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
All eyes and ears were on St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch when he announced there would be no indictment.
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 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