Getty Photographer Arrested Amid Ferguson Unrest

 

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The unrest between civilians and the police in Ferguson, Missouri is not going away anytime soon–and neither the National Guard nor Missouri Governor Jay Nixon can do anything to pacify the angry crowds. Now, it looks like the Police are turning their hostility onto journalists and photographers as well.

Following the death of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot by a police officer on August 9 for stealing a pack of cigarettes, what should have been peaceful civilian protests to condemn the act and seek justice have often turned violent with the police firing tear gases and rubber bullets and with snipers at the ready while the demonstrators often erupting into chaos, both sides stuck in a endless cycle of aggression from each other.

It seems the police aren’t happy with the media presence there either. On Monday, August 18, veteran Getty photographer Scott Olson was arrested and detained by police officers. He was arrested for allegedly refusing to relocate himself to the designated press area located opposite the protest zone.

Although he was later released and no charges were filed, Olson claims that he was “arrested for just doing my job.” His arrest came after Ferguson authorities signed a court declaration that “acknowledge and agree that the media and the members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgment” unless they pose a threat or prevent police officers from doing their job.

He isn’t the only member of the press that’s been arrested during the conflicts. Last week, two journalists – Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan J Reilly of the Huffington Post – were also arrested by officers for allegedly “videotaping them,” prompting criticisms from both publications, condemning the acts as “military aggression” and an “assault on the freedom of the press”.

Via The Guardian

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