FERGUSON, Mo., Aug. 11 (UPI) — Two reporters who were arrested at a McDonald’s while covering the protests last year were charged Monday with interfering with a police officer, trespassing and ordered to appear in court.
Wesley Lowery, a reporter on The Washington Post’s national desk, and Huffington Post justice reporter Ryan J. Reilly were covering the nightly unrest that followed the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in August 2014.
Both reporters were working in a McDonald’s that journalists had been using as a staging area when officers demanded they leave the restaurant. They were handcuffed and arrested when they did not move fast enough, Reilly said. Lowery said they were also given contradictory instructions from the officers about exiting the restaurant.
The summons sent to Lowery, 25, ordered him to appear in a St. Louis County court on Aug. 24. He can be arrested if he fails to appear.
“Charging a reporter with trespassing and interfering with a police officer when he was just doing his job is outrageous,” Martin Baron, executive editor of The Post, said.“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.”
Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief, and Sam Stein, the site’s senior politics editor, said Reilly was issued a similar summons later Monday.
“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,” they said in a written statement. “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.”
St. Louis County officials would not comment or explain why it took so long to file charges. The counts carry a possible fine of $1,000 and up to a year in a county jail.