Wesley Lowery a reporter for the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly, who writes for The Huffington Post, were among the many journalists who converged on Ferguson, Mo., during the violent unrest taking place amid Ferguson protests in 2014. While at a McDonald’s which served as a makeshift headquarters for the media, the two were placed under arrest, accused “unlawful actions” that contributed to the situation, although they have maintained they were doing nothing more than their jobs. Simply put, they just didn’t leave the restaurant as fast at the police wanted.
More than 20 months later, they’re still facing charges. Each has been charged with one count of trespassing and interfering with a police officer. The irony is that Lowery just recently won a Pulitzer Prize for a project on fatal police shootings.
The journalists’ arrests have been the subject of numerous legal proceedings in Missouri courts. The below is a summary from the Washington Post of the arrest:
Journalists had been using a Ferguson McDonald’s as a staging ground to cover unrest after the shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown by white Officer Darren Wilson. Asked by officers to leave the restaurant, Mr. Lowery and Mr. Reilly apparently didn’t leave quickly enough for the police. Mr. Lowery, for one, started recording a video on his phone while he packed up, which obviously riled an officer who improperly ordered him to stop recording. On the video, the officer walks toward the exit with Mr. Lowery while the Post reporter asks legitimate questions and tries to record the interactions other officers are having with Mr. Reilly, who is not quite done packing up.
Next, there is confusion about which door Mr. Lowery is supposed to use to exit, during which he asks if he can just adjust his backpack, which, Mr. Lowery later explained, was slipping off his shoulder. At that point one of the officers says, “Let’s take him.” According to an account Mr. Lowery wrote after his arrest, the officers slammed him into a soda machine, handcuffed him and led him and Mr. Reilly to a police van. The officers refused to tell Mr. Lowery or Mr. Reilly their names.
In October, Reilly and Lowery filed motions to dismiss the charges for lack of jurisdiction in the St. Louis County Municipal Court. They argued that their arrests were based on alleged conduct that occurred in an incorporated area of the county and that the charges arose under ordinances that apply only in unincorporated areas.
In response to the motions, the county conceded, saying it lacked the authority to charge Reilly and Lowery for alleged violations in the City of Ferguson. But the county also stated that its lack of authority was irrelevant, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.
Judge Craig Cocannon denied Reilly and Lowery’s motions, and now the two are continuing to fight their case, arguing that the judge abused his discretion and filing writs arguing against over the invoking of emergency powers by the county.
The county, in turn, has about three weeks to reply to the writs and a ruling is expected to follow.
Read more at CJR.org.