Captain Ron Johnson, the man placed in charge of policing Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the Mike Brown shooting, warned journalists that they could very well continue to be arrested. The Huffington Post reports that up to 11 reporters have been arrested or detained in the Missouri town, and that at a press conference today, Captain Johnson warned more could be on the way.
While speaking at a press conference, the Highway Patrol Captain told reporters that, if the police can’t tell they’re members of the media, they could be detained:
When officers are running around, we’re not sure who’s a journalist and who’s not. Yes, if I see somebody with a $50,000 camera on their shoulder, I’m pretty sure. But some journalists are walking around, and all you have is a cellphone because you’re from a small media outlet. Some of you may just have a camera around your neck. So yes, we may take some of you into custody. But when we do take you into custody, and we have found out you’re a journalist, we’ve taken the proper action.
So yes, we may take some of you into custody. But when we do take you into custody, and we have found out you’re a journalist, we’ve taken the proper action. But in the midst of it, we cannot — in the midst of it, in the midst of chaos, and trying to move people on, we have to be safe. … And we are providing protection for journalists. We had, we had a journalist who was trapped in the midst of that gunfire, in the midst of that chaos. And we’re providing protection for them. We took journalists back to their trucks.
As a response to the arrest of two journalists last week, Politico reports that 48 media organizations addressed a letter to the authorities expressing a “deep concern over unwarranted detention.” The ACLU also obtained a court agreement last week, signed by the city, St. Louis County, and Missouri Highway Patrol chief, that stated the “media and members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgment unless it obstructs the activity or threatens the safety of others, or physically interferes with the ability of law enforcement officers to preform their duties.”
Johnson’s comments came before Ryan Deveraux, of The Intercept, was detained and held for hours in the city. According to The Intercept, both Ryan and another reporter were arrested despite holding their hands up and shouting, “Press!”
This has been one ongoing, slow-motion trainwreck for law enforcement officers around the country, not just in Ferguson, but the ones in Ferguson are not making it any better.