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.
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.
They said the officers assaulted them during their arrest.
Lowery said he witnessed a situation reminiscent of the Eric Garner tragedy in New York.
They were then released with no charges, and police refused to provide any information about the arrest.
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.
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.