Tonight, I could go to Ferguson as a reporter … and get myself arrested. You want to see it happen?
I could get on scene and put myself in the right situation where I can claim that I am exercising my First Amendment rights, and dare police to arrest me.
You want to know how I would do it?
You want to see it happen?
As a journalist, I am fervently concerned when any police action shuts down our First Amendment rights, but … I find it … interesting … that the 2 reporters taken into custody last night were not from the St.Louis area.
Local reporters who have been on this story since the beginning have voiced concerns about how police were reacting, but to my knowledge, not one of them has been “arrested”, “detained”.
The two reporters taken into custody were Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post.
They reported that police ordered them to stop recording the chaos and then they were taken into custody.
I was not on the scene, and I would not second guess any journalist in the field and what that reporter/photographer is facing at the time.
I do ask … did these reporters from outside this area ….want to get “arrested” and continued to act in a fashion that accomplished what they wanted?
I can ask that question because I know that I’ve been in news stories where I certainly could have responded in a way … that rather than covering the story, I could have made myself a big part of the story. I also know reporters and photographers who have purposely pushed that envelope … hoping they would be arrested and so they could claim they are being deprived of First Amendment rights — when that wasn’t the issue.
That said, Lowery and Reilly might have been totally in their right as journalists, and police over-reacted.
I do think that police need to change their approach, but I also blame civic leaders for not saying: Let’s stop night time protests.
In the dark of the night is when things happen in shadows and too many innocents can be hurt … on both sides.
You have a right to “peaceful” assembly, but when you schedule nighttime marches and protests … your intent to be peaceful can be hijacked by others who see an opportunity to create chaos and violence.
How do you expect police to react … when from somewhere in the night, comes a rock or Molotov cocktail … or shots are fired?
Maybe police should just pull out. Let the demonstrators have the streets, and we will see how fast many of them are asking for police to return … in force; we will see how many start criticizing police for not being on the scene and protecting citizens and property from gangs of looters and thugs.
AT 9pm on Larry Conners USA, I will focus on the latest developments regarding Ferguson … from President Obama’s statement today, Governor Nixon and Senator McCaskill’s remarks, the “militarization” of police and their actions last night, the demonstrators’ actions and the “arrest” of journalists.
Remember you can hear my program tonight on KTRS (550) … or via the internet streaming live audio at KTRS.com or using the free KTRS phone app.
Below are last night’s programs; in the 9PM Hour my guests were Martin Mathews of Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club and also Jacque Land, the Executive Director of 100 Black Men of St. Louis; both offering solutions for the current and future similar situations.