Just hours after police in Ferguson, Missouri, asked those protesting the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown to behave in an "organized and respectful manner" and refrain from demonstrating for a third straight night, two reporters covering the story reported on Twitter that they were arrested. Wesley Lowery, a Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post political reporter, and Ryan Reilly, a Huffington Post justice reporter, said after their release that they were working in a McDonald's when police entered and told everyone to leave. Lowrey tweeted that officers arrested them because they "decided we weren't leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn't have been taping them." Both journalists say they were assaulted. "Officers slammed me into a fountain soda machine because I was confused about which door they were asking me to walk out of," Lowery tweeted.
Reilly tweeted a photo of the officers when they entered the McDonald's just before 8 p.m. Lowery said they told everyone to leave.
SWAT just invade McDonald's where I'm working/recharging. Asked for ID when I took photo. pic.twitter.com/FOIsMnBwHy— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 13, 2014
"We cannot guarantee your safety. We will not be answering 911 calls"— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 13, 2014
Colleagues became worried when the reporters stopped answering their phones and officers were spotted making arrests nearby.
An hour later, the two reporters said they'd been taken into custody.
Was arrested— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Well, @WesleyLowery and I have been released. That was an experience.— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 14, 2014
They said the officers assaulted them during their arrest.
Officers slammed me into a fountain soda machine because I was confused about which door they were asking me to walk out of— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Unfortunately my last Vine featuring the officer who assaulted me was deleted when other my phone died.— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 14, 2014
Lowery said he witnessed a situation reminiscent of the Eric Garner tragedy in New York.
Was waiting to be taken away, large black man SCREAMING for help in back of police truck— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
They refused his several calls for paramedics— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
"I'm dying. I'm dying. Please call help he screamed." They mocked him— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
They were then released with no charges, and police refused to provide any information about the arrest.
Detained, booked, given answers to no questions. Then just let out— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Got no explaination at any point why in custody other than "trespassing" - at a mcdonalds where we were customers— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
It's as if the arrest and the assaults never took place. Just opened the doors and let is out as if we'd let it go— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Apparently, in America, in 2014, police can manhandle you, take you into custody, put you in cell & then open the door like it didn't happen— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
"The chief thought he was doing you a favor" - police officer tells me about release. With no charges, no police report— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Police now say there might be a report available to Ryan and I in "a week or two"— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Journalists weren't given any information about Reilly and Lowery when they called the Ferguson Police Department to ask about their status. The Huffington Post said someone named "George" answered the phone and said no one could tell them anything about the reporters. He mumbled his last name, and when asked for the spelling, he hung up. When the Huffington Post called back, they were put through to the "Ferguson jail" voice-mail.
The Los Angeles Times' Matt Pearce got through to the Ferguson police chief:
Lowery and Reilly have resumed their reporting on tonight's protests, and emphasized that many on the streets in Ferguson have been treated more harshly by police.
I'm emotional, but need to note: Ryan and I are fine. Have seen people in Ferguson hurt by gas/rubber bullets. This wasn't that— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
Really upset, and have conflicting emotions - but can't shake anger that (part) of story about my stupid detention and not about ferguson— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
UPDATE: In an appearance on MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes, Reilly gave more details on the incident. "The officer in question, who I repeatedly later asked for his name, grabbed my things and shoved them into my bag," he said. "He used his finger to put a pressure point on my neck."
"They essentially acted as a military force. It was incredible," Reilly said. "The worst part was he slammed my head against the glass purposefully on the way out of McDonald's and then sarcastically apologized for it."
The Washington Post shared this video shot by Lowery before his arrest:
In the Washington Post's report, Lowery said the incident was "probably the single point at which I’ve been more afraid than at any point." He added, "More afraid than the tear gas and rubber bullets, more afraid during the riot police. I know of too many instances where someone who was not resisting arrest was assaulted or killed."
Executive Editor Marty Baron shared this statement:
He was illegally instructed to stop taking video of officers. Then he followed officers' instructions to leave a McDonald's — and after contradictory instructions on how to exit, he was slammed against a soda machine and then handcuffed. That behavior was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news. The physical risk to Wesley himself is obvious and outrageous.
After being placed in a holding cell, he was released with no charges and no explanation. He was denied information about the names and badge numbers of those who arrested him.
We are relieved that Wesley is going to be OK. We are appalled by the conduct of police officers involved.
Wesley has briefed us on what occurred, and there was absolutely no justification for his arrest.