Police Arrest 'Post' Reporter Covering Mo. Shooting Aftermath
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Police in Ferguson took two reporters into custody last night. One was Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post. He says he was in a McDonald's, charging his phone and working along with a reporter from The Huffington Post, and police came in to clear the restaurant because of a protest down the street. Lowery took video of that moment, including video of police telling him to stop taking video.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Grab your stuff. Let's go.
WESLEY LOWERY: I'm working on it.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Stop videotaping. Let's grab our stuff and go.
LOWERY: (Unintelligible) I have a right to videotape you, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Hurry up. Let's go.
LOWERY: Please don't wave your gun at me.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Let's go.
INSKEEP: Wesley Lowery says he was on his way out as ordered when there was confusion about which door he should use.
LOWERY: And then, as I turned to go to the door they were directing me, my backpack, which had only been hooked over one shoulder, started to slide off of my shoulder. I said, officers, I just need to adjust my backpack. Give me one second. And that's when they said, all right, let's take him. And they threw me up against the soda machine, put plastic restraints on the backs of my hand, told me I was resisting arrest and then eventually led me outside.
INSKEEP: You said resisting arrest. Does that mean you were formally arrested?
LOWERY: Well, in some ways it's a technicality. I was taken into custody. Officers on the scene told me I was under arrest. They told me that I was going to be charged with trespassing in the McDonald's where we were customers. But after we were in detention maybe 20 minutes, it got out there on social media that two reporters had just been forcibly removed and arrested from this McDonald's. Other reporters, friends and colleagues started calling in to the police station to inquire. And once word got to the police chief, he ordered our immediate release.
INSKEEP: I want to try to get into the shoes of the police officers to the extent that you can. Are they a little tense at this point, after one of their number was accused of killing an unarmed civilian, and others have faced violent protests?
LOWERY: They're extremely tense. And I think it's important to remember how long this has been going on. This has been going on since Saturday, Sunday night. We're doing five, six days - almost a week of this every single day, every single night. You have to remember, the police officers are facing some threats to their livelihood. I've been out here every night since Monday. And what I've seen often, while I've not seen what I would describe as riots, per se - I have not seen any looting - as we get into the late-night, there is some troublemaking going on. And so I understand. Police officers are - certainly seem to be on edge. Again, this was during daylight. This was not out on the street with hundreds or dozens of people. This was in a McDonald's with five people and maybe six officers. So it's hard to apply that to the situation.
INSKEEP: You know, I have a question about a detail, how the police are outfitted. We had an interview with a veteran law enforcement official some weeks ago on this program who pointed out his own experience that, as a police chief, when he sent cops into a crowd who were in soft gear, just looked like ordinary police officers on the street, they were able to talk with and interact with the crowd, and things were not so violent. But if he sent cops into an area in riot gear, ready for combat, it seemed somehow to encourage combat or lead to combat. How are the police outfitted in Ferguson right now?
LOWERY: You know, when I spoke with a resident earlier today, he said to me, when I go somewhere and see a cop in riot gear, first thing I think is, riot. When I see someone who's ready to fight and looks like they're ready to fight me, I'm going to put up my fists. The cops here are dressed in any number of ways, but many of them are in riot gear and SWAT gear, driving armored vehicles, carrying very heavy weapons and using, in fact, heavy - weather it be rubber bullets or teargas - the artillery these police officers are caring with them is very heavy. This is not standard issued stuff. This is the type of stuff you see National Guards employ, not what you expect to see from a police officer in suburban St. Louis.
INSKEEP: And have protesters provoked the police in any way?
LOWERY: At times, yes. There have been people who've thrown rocks. There have been people who've taunted them, people who have not complied. But I would say that's a - probably a small minority of the people. We're talking about hundreds of people protesting over the course of days. Most of the interactions I've seen on the behalf of the protesters have been nonviolent - frustrated, certainly, angry, certainly - as is all of their right. But I've seen, for the most part, respectful protests and certainly not violent protests other than, like I said, a few troublemakers well after the sun goes down each night. But for the most part, especially during the day, I think we're seeing emotional but reasonable protests.
INSKEEP: Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post, thanks very much.
INSKEEP: And by the way, we have reached out to the Ferguson police for comment - didn't hear back yet, but we're going to keep trying as we continue hearing many voices from Ferguson, Missouri. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.