Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post said on Twitter that they were arrested while they were doing work and then released within roughly 45 minutes. Neither was charged.
“This was very unnecessary,” Lowery said in a telephone interview. He said he was never told why he and Reilly were detained, except that they were “trespassing” by being inside the fast-food restaurant.
Lowery recorded a portion of his interaction with an officer inside the McDonald’s. In the video, which was published on The Washington Post’s Web site, an officer is heard demanding that he “stop videotaping.”
Citizens and professional journalists generally have the right to record police activities.
Lowery emphasized that he did not want his arrest to overshadow the ongoing protests in Ferguson or the treatment of the protesters. “I want this to be about the community,” he said. “But this arrest is in some ways an anecdote of what’s going on here.”
The arrests came amid an already-tense situation between journalists and the authorities in Ferguson, the site of last Saturday’s police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old, Michael Brown.
There have been several reports of reporters and the camera crews being told to leave protest areas, but no reported arrests until Wednesday.
Martin Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, said in a statement Wednesday night that “there was absolutely no justification” for Lowery’s arrest.
Baron noted that the reporter 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.”
Lowery said the arresting officers refused to provide their names.
Shortly before the arrest, Lowery had written on Twitter, “Police come into McD where me and @ryanjreilly working. Try to kick everyone out.” Reilly had posted a picture of what he called “SWAT” inside the fast-food restaurant.
“Asked for ID when I took photo,” Reilly wrote.
CNN reached out to Ferguson police but was not able to obtain immediate comment.
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