Ferguson State Police Assault Photographers at Protest

Ferguson Al Jazeera Tear Gas

Image courtesy of Brandon Wall

Emotions are raw in the city of Ferguson, Missouri following the unprovoked police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who raised his hands in surrender. Since the shooting Ferguson residents have cried out against the police demanding justice in protests while full-on riots breakout. However on the fifth day into the protests the police were enforcing a complete media blackout more akin to a war torn country than a nation built on free speech.

Yesterday one of the police’s most heinous acts was teargasing a crew of Al Jazeera America TV reporters. After the journalists cleared out of the gas cloud, a SWAT team dressed in full riot gear descended on the camera equipment and broke everything down to the lighting equipment. This was just one of many cases where photographers and journalists had their rights violated while reporting on the event.

At a McDonalds police also arrested Huffington Post journalist Ryan Reilly and The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery. Supposedly the grounds for the arrest stemmed from the pair of reporters were not vacating the fast food establishment quickly enough.

Photographers and reporters are accustomed to being turned away by police and “rent-a-cop security” but this is a direct attack on free speech and civil rights. Police in Ferguson have reportedly been approaching news reporters telling them to shut off their cameras. If these photojournalists disagree, the law enforcement in the area has allegedly threatened open fire with rubber bullets or unleash a canister of tear gas.

The good news is the two arrested journalists mentioned earlier have been released. Meanwhile, the Governor of Ferguson Jay Nixon has pulled back the St. Louis County Police Department on Thursday night. Protests from last night supposedly took a jubilant energy with a racially mixed crowd. Posts on social media described the atmosphere as parade or block party as streets were filled with music, free food, and even laughter.

Today thousands of demonstrators peacefully march down the streets alongside members of the Missouri Highway Patrol, which has since taken control of the situation from the St. Louis County Police.

Via DIY Photography

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Brooklyn.