The Huffington Post’s Ryan J. Reilly and the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery were arrested Wednesday evening while covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, who was shot by a police officer last week. The journalists were released unharmed, but their detentions highlighted the town’s ramped up police presence, which has left numerous residents injured by rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas during protests held every night after Brown’s death.
SWAT officers roughed up the reporters inside a McDonald’s, where both journalists were working. Reilly snapped a photo, prompting cops to request his identification.
“The officer in question, who I repeatedly later asked for his name, grabbed my things and shoved them into my bag,” said Reilly, who appeared on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” shortly after his release to recount the arrest. “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.”
Reilly said it will be difficult to hold the officer “accountable for his actions,” as the officer did not respond to Reilly’s repeated requests for his name or other identification. He said he can’t be “100 percent sure” whether the officer was aware that he’s a reporter, “but that really shouldn’t matter in this equation.”
Reilly believes he was arrested because he declined to present the officer his identification when asked for it, he said.
The Huffington Post called the Ferguson Police Department to inquire about the status of Reilly shortly after tweets indicated that he had been arrested. The person who picked up the phone — who identified himself as “George” — said he couldn’t give any information at this time and that there was no one who could do so. Asked for his last name, he mumbled something quickly. When pressed for the spelling of his name, he hung up.
The Huffington Post called back and again asked for information on Reilly. We were simply put through to the “Ferguson jail” voicemail. On the third try, George again insisted he didn’t have any information at this time and referred us to the city’s website for email information. When again asked for his last name, George simply hung up.