Late Wednesday night, police in Ferguson, Missouri shot tear gas and riot-suppressing bean bags at Al Jazeera America and KSDK reporters, KSDK reports.
The Al Jazeera crew was setting up to shoot a segment on the ongoing riots in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown when police shot a tear gas canister at them. As they tried to avoid the fumes, they were shouting “We’re the press!” repeatedly.
Undeterred, police officers walked over to the crew, disassembled their lighting gear, and pointed their cameras at the ground.
The officers then approached the KSDK crew filming the dismantling of the Al Jazeera America lighting rig with “guns drawn.” Elizabeth Matthews of KDSK said that she and a photojournalist with her put their hands up, while another photojournalist went to his knees as he informed the police that he was with the press.
According to Matthews, the police told her that they had received a call indicating that members of the media were in danger, but she and her crew assured him that they were not, and that they had not made the call. An officer then said, “we don’t want you here — somebody’s going to get hurt. We don’t want to see you guys get hurt.”
In another video by a KDSK photojournalist, a thud can be heard as a group of heavily armed police approach the camera. The photojournalist filming it claims was the sound of a bean bag hitting his camera.
Al Jazeera America released a statement saying that, “last night at 10:30pm in Ferguson, Mo., an Al Jazeera America news crew was reporting behind police barricades. They were easily identifiable as a working television crew. As they were setting up their camera for a live report, tear gas canisters landed in their proximity and police fired rubber bullets in their direction. Police continued to shoot after crew members clearly and repeatedly shouted ‘Press.'”
“Al Jazeera America is stunned by this egregious assault on freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story,” the statement continued. “Thankfully all three crew members are physically fine.”
Watch video of Al Jazeera America TV’s crew being overcome by tear gas via KSDK below.