Ferguson SWAT Arrest HuffPo and WaPo Reporters: “It’s a War Zone Here”

Ferguson SWAT Arrest HuffPo and WaPo Reporters: “It’s a War Zone Here”

The situation in Ferguson, MO is growing more dangerous by the hour.  Rather than eventually dying down, the violence has only spread, and with it have come some consequences that should be very concerning to all of us.  A few of the writers here at VG have covered the riots, and they were right: Looters and violence does not bring justice for Michael Brown; regardless of the events surrounding his death, rioting does not bring him back and it does not bring anything positive to the table.  That being said, there is a shift going on in Ferguson that every single American should be paying attention to.  At some point, when does it stop being rioting like fools and start being something else more sinister?  There are some disturbing things happening on the streets of Ferguson tonight, and it’s not just looters among the lawless.

Two reporters were arrested Wednesday night; one from the Huffington Post and one from Washington Post.  Ryan J. Reilly and Wesley Lowery, respectively, were in a McDonald’s working when SWAT team members came in and “roughed up” the two of them while closing the business.

Reilly snapped a photo, prompting cops to request his identification.


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

Reilly asked the SWAT officer several times for his name, but the officer refused to give it, instead arresting Reilly.  For what? Reilly believes it’s because he refused to show identification; the cops apparently thought he didn’t move fast enough. Then it just got stupid.

“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.”

Once Reilly and Lowery were arrested, their editors tried to find out what was going on; and it all went downhill from there:

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.

Matt Pearce from the LA Times was finally able to get through to the chief, who told him that the reporters were arrested by “probably somebody who didn’t know better.”  SWAT officers don’t know better?  Since when?  The two men were finally released, but tweeted about hearing a detained man screaming for someone to please call medical help for him while the cops mocked him openly.

Meanwhile, Christine Conetta, another HuffPo reporter, got hit with tear gas, as did Al Jazeera America.  Other protesters were injured by rubber bullets, and a city alderman has been arrested as well; his crime was, according to the cops, “not listening,” whatever that means.

The HuffPo live blog on the events is still updating at 0300 EST as I write this, and the situation continues to escalate.  Protesters are now throwing Molotov cocktails, and the cops are using mini-bangs, tear gas, and other non-lethals.  Explosions can be seen in videos all over the internet.  Reporters have been told to leave the area, and footage of a cop saying “Move or you are next” to another HuffPo journalist is also floating around.

The question is this: What crime did they commit? Reporters are supposed to cover the news.  That is their job.  Freedom of the press, and of their representatives to speak freely about events and hold the government responsible, is so important that it is at the top of the Bill of Rights.  The only crimes that were committed in that McDonald’s were by SWAT members, and the same type of suppression is going on all over the area.

This brings up a bigger question: Can the police be trusted to investigate their own incidents?  Can the government be trusted to police itself?  The resounding answer is NO, and that’s why they’re supposed to answer to us.  There are some out of control people down there; criminals taking advantage of a horrible situation, regular citizens choosing to act like animals, and militarized cops acting like they’re in Mogadishu instead of Missouri.

We don’t have enough information to make a judgment on the Michael Brown shooting; I won’t judge that one way or the other.  I will, however, say this:  I watched a video of the shooting aftermath—over ten minutes of coverage that started after the shooting had already occurred and a police tape perimeter already put in place.  In the video, which was taken from the edge of the perimeter, Brown was still laying in the street like a dog that had been hit by a car.  No one even covered him up.  The police simply stood around as a human being laid in the middle of the street, his brains and blood splattered out in front of him like a crimson arrow.  This isn’t Iraq.  This isn’t some third world hole where life means nothing and corpses are left to rot in the open air.  Even if Michael Brown was a common street thug (and we don’t know that he was), he deserved to at least have the basic human decency of a sheet over his remains.  Instead, the cops stood around casually chatting while the flies discovered his body, crumpled on the pavement like two-day-old road kill.  To me, that says a great deal…and none of it is good.  None of it represents the ideals that we were founded on.

In Ferguson tonight, no one is answering to anyone.  That should worry us all.


UPDATE: State Senator confronts police chief: “Will I get tear gassed again?”  Meanwhile, the DOJ says the cops can’t handle it and there needs to be a more federal police presence…and Rep. John Lewis just asked for Obama to declare martial law.  Obama speaks live, calls for healing and other such things…and then says the feds will step in and “investigate.”


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  • F.D.R. in Hell says:

    The LEOs may be taking the opportunity to make this a training exercise. It’s Watertown, Massachusetts déjà vu.

  • Merle says:

    The feds will “investigate”
    Sure makes me feel confident the truth will come out!


  • Jodi says:

    When we have a lawless federal govt, this is the result.

  • Jen says:

    I’ve heard on other sites that the police came in to the restaurant initially and warned everyone that the rioters were heading their way and advised them to leave. They then returned a second time later and told everyone to evacuate, which the press refused to do.

    When you are told to leave an area by a police officer and you don’t, that is a civil violation and you can be arrested. Not sure why everyone is making this out to be more than that, other than the fact that the reporters believe they are special and above ordinary citizens. One tweeted today that the Constitution “grants” him special privileges that the ordinary citizen doesn’t have. BS.

  • Kit Lange says:

    I find a certain delicious irony in the fact that HuffPo and Al Jazeera are the ones reaping the benefits of their own failed ideas on government and gun control. That being said, they have a right to be there. They have an obligation, in fact, as part of their job, to accept the risk and report events.

    I didn’t see the tweet in question, but the deal is this: The press has historically been in a lot of situations that are not safe for the average citizen to be in. This doesn’t mean that they SHOULD be there in all cases, or even that they aren’t scum-sucking little weasels in many cases. It means that there is an assumed risk, and in return for them accepting that risk, they report the news to the rest of us. They have a right to do this. Is he special? No. Is he better than anyone else? Of course not. But I don’t care what his attitude is; I care what the Constitution says about his rights. And I have a serious problem with anyone reading the accounts and seeing the videos from that incident and thinking that the cops are pure as the driven snow. They’re not.

    When you add in the rest of the evidence coming in from that area, you see a mindset and a behavior pattern. Are there animalistic jackasses down there acting like fools? Yup. Does that justify martial law? Does it justify the cops rolling up like infantry? You cannot simultaneously believe in liberty, and still believe that the government has the right to suspend rights they feel aren’t convenient right now.

    If they want to get a handle on that situation, then let them enlist the help of law abiding citizens. Let them empower residents to help step up and police their own neighborhoods. Self-government. Self-reliance. Set up neighborhood watch posts. Find the prior military in the neighborhoods and get them to help. People should be handling this THEMSELVES, in their own towns. Not crying to the government to come save them. I don’t know about you but there is no way that I or my neighbors would allow a bunch of thugs to roll in and start burning things, any more than we’d allow a bunch of cops to roll in and act like they’re in Fallujah or something. No. The Constitution is not a convenience. It is the standard.

  • Kit Lange says:

    One more thing…they are targeting journalists there now with the tear gas. Is that okay too?

  • Deebow says:

    I can’t speak to events that happened that night. I don’t know why the police did what they did.

    But SWAT going on some sort of rock ’em sock ’em free for all and throwing everyone in the pokey and picking fights with people is going to turn out badly. Super Badly.

    Not just lawsuits, but possibly incoming and outgoing gun fire. Police not acting within the law means there is no safety within the law.

    “There is no safety for honest men but by believing all possible evil of evil men”

  • […] Bush lies a lot. Yesterday she tweeted out a doozy. According to her, when she was marching in Ferguson, white supremacists were shooting at […]

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