Both the Washington Post and the Huffington Post have voiced outrage over their reporters being charged with trespassing a year after the two were arrested in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Huffington Post said in a statement Monday that it condemns the charges against Ryan Reilly (above left). While Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron called the charges against Wesley Lowery (above right) “outrageous.”
“Charging a reporter with trespassing and interfering with a police officer when he was just doing his job is outrageous,” Baron said in a story published on the Washington Post website. “You’d have thought law enforcement authorities would have come to their senses about this incident. Wes Lowery should never have been arrested in the first place. That was an abuse of police authority.”
Lowery and Reilly were detained in a McDonald’s last year while reporting on the unrest sparked by the shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer.
On Monday — a day after the one year anniversary of Brown’s death — both reporters were charged with trespassing and interfering with a police officer, and ordered to appear in St. Louis County municipal court on Aug. 24.
“The Huffington Post condemns the charges filed by St. Louis County against our Justice reporter, Ryan J. Reilly, while covering the protests in Ferguson last year. Ryan has the full support of The Huffington Post in fighting these charges,” HuffPo Washington D.C. bureau chief Ryan Grim said in a statement to TheWrap.
“A crime was committed at the McDonald’s, not by journalists, but by local police who assaulted both Ryan and Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post during violent arrests,” Grim added. “At least we know St. Louis County knows how to file charges. If Wesley Lowery and Ryan J. Reilly can be charged like this with the whole country watching, just imagine what happens when nobody is.”
As TheWrap reported last year, Lowery and Reilly had set up camp in the McDonald’s to work on their stories. But police said they failed to leave in a timely fashion after being ordered out of the restaurant. The two reporters alleged that they were assaulted by officers during the incident.
The National Association of Black Journalists also released a statement Monday criticizing the decision to charge Lowery, who is African-American and a former member of the group’s board. “Reporters have every right to do their jobs, pursue the truth and publish it,” NABJ President Sarah Glover said.
“The association is troubled by the action taken by prosecutors and believe it to be a direct assault on the free exercise of the First Amendment, which ensures journalists can practice their craft,” the NABJ statement continued.