The Ferguson police chief does a reporter a favor

Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery reports on his own arrest in Ferguson.

Reporters were using a MacDonald’s a few blocks from where Michael Brown was shot as a staging area, because it has WiFi and outlets. Lowery was there charging his phone and responding to people on Twitter yesterday when the cops came in. They told Lowery and another reporter to leave. Lowery started recording video on his phone.

An officer with a large weapon came up to me and said, “Stop recording.”

I said, “Officer, do I not have the right to record you?”

He backed off but told me to hurry up. So I gathered my notebook and pens with one hand while recording him with the other hand.

As I exited, I saw Ryan to my left, having a similar argument with two officers. I recorded him, too, and that angered the officer. As I made my way toward the door, the officers gave me conflicting information.

One instructed me to exit to my left. As I turned left, another officer emerged, blocking my path.

Then they decided to arrest him.

Multiple officers grabbed me. I tried to turn my back to them to assist them in arresting me. I dropped the things from my hands.

“My hands are behind my back,” I said. “I’m not resisting. I’m not resisting.” At which point one officer said: “You’re resisting. Stop resisting.”

That was when I was most afraid — more afraid than of the tear gas and rubber bullets.

As they took me into custody, the officers slammed me into a soda machine, at one point setting off the Coke dispenser. They put plastic cuffs on me, then they led me out the door.

The cops took the reporters to the station, in a car with a woman in a clerical collar who sang hymns the whole way. (Lowery doesn’t say whether that was annoying or not. It sounds annoying.)

Once at the station, we were processed, our pockets emptied. No mug shots. They removed our restraints and put us in a holding cell. Ryan was able to get ahold of his dad. I called my mom, but I couldn’t get through. I couldn’t remember any phone numbers.

We were in there for what felt like 10 or 15 minutes. Then the processing officer came in.

“Who’s media?” he asked.

We said we were. And the officer said we were both free to go. We asked to speak to a commanding officer. We asked to see an arrest report. No report, the officer told us, and no, they wouldn’t provide any names.

I asked if there would ever be a report. He came back with a case number and said a report would be available in a week or two.

“The chief thought he was doing you two a favor,” he said.

Really? What kind of favor?

The Ferguson Police Department has so far had no comment on this favor. The Post has:

The following is a statement on the incident from Washington Post Executive Editor Martin D. Baron:

Wesley has briefed us on what occurred, and there was absolutely no justification for his arrest.

He 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. The physical risk to Wesley himself is obvious and outrageous.

After being placed in a holding cell, he was released with no charges and no explanation. He was denied information about the names and badge numbers of those who arrested him.

We are relieved that Wesley is going to be OK. We are appalled by the conduct of police officers involved.

Ferguson; a name that will live in infamy.





  1. A Masked Avenger says

    “My hands are behind my back,” I said. “I’m not resisting. I’m not resisting.” At which point one officer said: “You’re resisting. Stop resisting.”

    That was when I was most afraid —

    Law enforcement are trained to do that (I work in law enforcement, and I was trained to do that). If you find this account Orwellian, imagine rows of police officers practicing one-two-one-two: swing the baton; holler “stop resisting!” Swing it again; “drop the weapon!”

    The instructors are not coy about why they do this. “It looks better on YouTube,” for one thing. And “witnesses won’t remember whether they saw a weapon–but they’ll sure as hell remember hearing you holler ‘drop the weapon’ over and over,” for another.

  2. smrnda says

    Cops in the US are nothing but a gang of thugs. The ‘stop resisting’ has been used as an excuse for them to debilitate and injure and even kill unarmed, innocent people left and right.

    And cops wearing riot gear with military weapons whining about people to ‘stop resisting’ given the power differential and their formidable arsenals are nothing but bullies and cowards.

  3. John Morales says


    Cops in the US are nothing but a gang of thugs.

    The USA is a big, big place with many, many jurisdictions.

    (Or: your claim is very sweeping)

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    The “food” served at McDonald’s is notoriously unhealthy.

    Advising anybody to leave such a place does them a favor.


  5. otrame says

    “Cops” is a huge number of people, many of whom are as sickened by what is going on in Ferguson as any of us. Are some cops bullies, yes. Are many cops a little too fast and loose with the rules, oh, yes. Are they ALL bullies? No. Not even close. A good number of them actually believe in serve and protect and try to do so even though some of their colleagues are assholes and much of the public treats them with (understandable) fear and loathing.

    Being a good cop is a damned hard thing to be. Don’t assume that they all fail.

    Some of the problem is lack of training. During the late 60s and early 70s there was a lot of this sort of ham-handed incompetence in dealing with demonstrations, riots, etc. Some places did learn the best way to deal with it and for a while it was standard training in large police departments (hint: increasing use of force not what they did). But that was a long time ago. Time to go back, dust off that kind of training. Because I guarantee that this will die down in Ferguson, but the next time a cop kills a kid in such suspicious circumstances it is going to start back up again and what is happening in Ferguson will make it much much worse.

  6. lorn says

    Everyone has the option of playing to the audience.

    Soccer players flop and play injured in the hope that the theatrics will get the opposing player carded or get a free kick. Police seem to play theatrics simply because it is taught in some police training programs where it is considered to be ‘proactively taking charge of public perception’ or other euphemism. Protesters attending training sessions are sometime taught to do some of this by shouting “I am not resisting” or “stop beating me”. The more extreme may slam their own head into a wall and act like they are being beaten all while shouting “I am not resisting”.

    I have personally seen that. The guy might have gotten away with it and collected some serious settlement money except there were witnesses who saw what he did and, the kicker, he was recorded pounding his own head into the brick wall. Neither his lawyer who was working on contingency nor the authorities were amused.

    PR can be used to assert a truth or it can tell lies. Humans lie. Even when we think we are telling the truth we lie. And the most destructive lies are the ones we tell ourselves.

  7. Ichthyic says

    IIRC, the Ferguson PC actually DID answer a reporter’s question about what happened to Lawrence. Reportedly, the PC, upon being told that a reporter was arrested said, “Oh god.” and then promptly told his crew to release him immediately.

    that, I believe, is the “favor” the cop was referring to. My impression is that you have a situation where a new PC was brought in in 2010 to “deal” with the inherent racism and thuggery the cops in Ferguson had been showing for YEARS, and basically this new PC is not only incompetent to accomplish such a task, but never really had any support to do so.

    You have a bunch of well armed thugs wearing badges, basically, that essentially have become a posse.

    the entire department, including the local prosecutor, and actually the mayor… need to be replaced, and the whole system rebuilt from scratch.

    They did it in L.A., they can do it in Ferguson.

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