Two reporters covering demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, the town where a city police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, were arrested outside of a McDonald’s where they were working Wednesday night.
Demonstrators had gathered for a fifth night in the streets of the St. Louis suburb where Brown was shot on Saturday. A demonstration Sunday devolved into looting and riot-like conditions, and police and SWAT units were at their heaviest on Wednesday, according to social media users at the scene.
One of the reporters arrested, Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly, had photographed what he estimated to be more than 70 SWAT unit officers lined up along the street with guns aimed towards people in the street.
And later, while Reilly was at a nearby McDonald’s, he wrote on Twitter that SWAT came into the restaurant and asked him for identification after he took their picture.
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
The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowrey was at the McDonald’s as well.
Another reporter in Ferguson, The Guardian’s Jon Swaine, sent a tweet claiming that two reporters were being arrested outside of the store.
— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 14, 2014
The two were released about 45 minutes later. Reilly tweeted, “Well, @WesleyLowery and I have been released. That was an experience.”
Lowery provided more details of the incident, saying that he was detained because the officers thought he wasn’t exiting the store fast enough and because he was recording them.
Officers decided we weren’t leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn’t have been taping them.
— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 14, 2014
It is not illegal to record police officers.
According to Matt Pearce, a reporter at the Los Angeles Times who is on the ground as well, the duo were released at the command of Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson.
The officers who arrested the reporters were “probably somebody who didn’t know better,” Jackson said, according to Swain.
Jackson has been heavily criticized both for providing few details in Brown’s shooting death and also for the heavy deployment of police and SWAT officers to keep the crowd under control.
Investigators have not provided much detail on the shooting, including the name of the officer and the number of bullets he fired at Brown.
On Wednesday, Jackson justified the use of SWAT officers because “people are using bombs now.” Thirty-two people were arrested during Sunday’s looting.