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“Status Quo Of Police Harassment”: Ferguson Police Arrest Reporters For Reporting

Looks like police in Ferguson, Missouri, took it upon themselves to suspend the First Amendment Wednesday night.

It seems two reporters, Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, were working at a McDonald’s, which has been used as a staging ground by reporters covering the ongoing unrest following the Aug. 9 police shooting of an unarmed African-American man. According to their accounts, the two were accosted by police, some in militaristic riot gear, demanding identification and ordering them out. These officers refused to provide their badge numbers or names or a reason for the order and grew angry when one of the men attempted to take a video.

Both reporters were arrested. Reilly says a cop intentionally banged his head against the glass on the way out of the restaurant, then gave him a facetious “apology.”

The two were transported to a lockup. No mugshots were taken, no fingerprints collected, no paperwork done. After some minutes, they were released. The men were told they’d been arrested for “trespassing.”

At a McDonald’s. Where they were customers.

“Apparently, in America, in 2014,” tweeted Lowery, “police can manhandle you, take you into custody, put you in cell and then open the door like it didn’t happen.”

Actually, both men had been treated with a heavy-handedness and official contempt that are apparently all too familiar to black people in Ferguson — and to black and poor people of whatever tribe all over America. In arresting reporters for reporting, Ferguson police raise a pressing question: Just what are they trying to hide?

The same night Reilly and Lowery were handcuffed, after all, a local alderman who had posted video of the protests to social media was arrested. All last week we had reports of news photographers being ordered to stop taking pictures and reporters being tear-gassed. One officer reportedly took a TV camera and pointed it to the ground. Add to this police refusal until six days after the incident to name the officer who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, and the picture that emerges is not one of transparency.

At least three witnesses have now disputed the official version of what happened, the tale of how Brown inexplicably shoved a police officer back inside the officer’s car, and they wrestled for the officer’s gun. One witness, Dorian Johnson, says he was walking in the street with Brown toward Brown’s grandmother’s apartment when the officer, who was in his car, commanded them to “get the eff” out of the street. The street in question, to judge from television images, is a quiet one. We’re not talking Broadway at rush hour.

Johnson says the officer reached out of the car and grabbed Brown and the struggle ensued, the two men wrestling through the car window as a shot was fired. Then the officer got out. Another witness, Tiffany Mitchell, says Brown had broken away and was facing the officer with hands up when he was shot.

Let us hope that between the time of this writing and the time of your reading, the fighting in the streets of Ferguson is done. It makes no sense to compound tragedy with tragedy.

But let us also understand: The mere restoration of order is not the same as peace. If events in Ferguson prove nothing else, they prove the status quo of police harassment and no accountability is untenable and intolerable. And what happened to these two reporters should be instructive to those whose reflex in such matters is to accord police the benefit of even overwhelming doubt.

Such people might want to reconsider. If this is how some cops behave when the whole world is watching, can you imagine what they’re like when the whole world is not?

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, August 18, 2014

 

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Media, Reporters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Non-Journalistic Instincts”: Joe Scarborough, Mike Allen Form Journalistic Axis of Evil

One of the more fascinating sidelights of the crisis in Ferguson is the way it has revealed the complacent, obedient, and fundamentally non-journalistic instincts of certain leading centrist establishmentarian journalists. The precipitating event was the arrest of Wesley Lowery, a young Washington Post reporter who was illegally ordered to leave a McDonalds near the demonstrations and, correctly, refused, leading to his arrest.

This angered Joe Scarborough. And by “angered,” we should be clear, we mean angered at the presumption of Lowery for refusing. The avuncular host of Morning Joe instructed him, “Next time a police officer tells you that you’ve got to move along because you’ve got riots outside, well, you probably should move along.” (Because nothing says “journalism” like following orders from authorities, however questionable, self-interested, or illegal they may be.) Scarborough attributed Lowery’s refusal not to any commitment to continue doing his job but to his desire to “get on TV and have people talk about me the next day,” because the desire to get on television in any way possible is the only motivation that makes sense to Joe Scarborough.

Lowery replied sharply. Riding to Scarborough’s side today, forming a kind of journalistic Axis of Evil, is Mike Allen. In Allen’s world, which is defined by overlapping and possibly coterminous circles of sources, friends, and paid advertisers, the sort of effrontery displayed by Lowery first toward the police and then toward an esteemed television commentator was thoroughly intolerable. Sniffs Allen, in today’s Playbook:

YA CAN’T MAKE IT UP – Wesley Lowrey, 23-year-old Congress/politics reporter for the WashPost, responding on CNN to suggestions that he should have obeyed police amid a riot: “[L]et me be clear about this: I have LITTLE PATIENCE for talking heads.”

FYI, his name is spelled Lowery, and his age is 24. But if Lowery wants more favorable coverage from Allen, maybe he should think about sponsoring some ads in Playbook.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencier, New York Magazine, August 15, 2014

August 18, 2014 Posted by | Journalism, Journalists | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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