Journalists across the United States are up in arms about the arrest of two reporters who were covering a demonstration in Ferguson, Missouri.
And it appears that their release followed a call from a concerned Los Angeles Times journalist, Matt Pearce, to Ferguson’s police chief.
Pearce said on Twitter that when he informed the chief, Thomas Jackson, about the arrests of the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly, he replied: “Oh god.”
The reporters were in the city to report on protests that have followed the shooting dead of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, by a police officer on Sunday (10 August).
They were writing their copy in a local branch of McDonald’s when police in riot gear arrived. The journalists, who were ordered to leave, began to video and take pictures.
Officers demanded that they stop and at one point, as Lowery later tweeted, some “officers slammed me into a fountain soda machine because I was confused about which door they were asking me to walk out of.”
Later, asked on Twitter who he feared more, the protesters or the police, Lowery replied: “Easy answer. I’m a black man – the police.”
News of the journalists’ arrests spread quickly, prompting Pearce to contact Ferguson’s police chief. Their release followed soon after, without charges or explanation. They were denied information about the names and badge numbers of the arresting officers.
Martin Baron, the Washington Post’s executive editor, told Poynter in a statement that Lowery “was illegally instructed to stop taking video of officers.”
He described the fact that Lowery was “slammed against a soda machine and then handcuffed” as “wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news.”
Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief, Ryan Grim, told Poynter he was “disturbed” by the arrests.