THE NEWSGUILD-CWA ISSUED THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT WEDNESDAY:
The NewsGuild-CWA joins with other outraged journalists in demanding that the St. Louis County prosecutor drop the trumped-up charges against two reporters who were arrested a year ago covering the Ferguson protests.
Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post were doing absolutely nothing wrong when police stormed the McDonald’s restaurant the journalists were using for a reporting base.
While attempting to comply with officers’ orders to leave the restaurant, police decided they weren’t acting quickly enough. As The Washington Post reported, “Lowery said he was given conflicting information about where to exit and was attempting to gather his bag when officers grabbed him, slammed him into a soda machine and placed plastic cuffs on him. Reilly, speaking to the Huffington Post last year, said the police gave the reporters “a countdown like we were 5-year-olds.”
The reporters were taken to a holding cell at the Ferguson police station. After a half hour, they were told they could leave without any charges filed.
Now, inexplicably and reprehensibly, Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch has made the decision to formally charge the two journalists with trespassing and interfering with a police officer. The counts carry a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in a county jail.
“The prosecutor’s actions are a gross abuse of power and a vile assault on the First Amendment,” NewsGuild-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said. “We are not politely calling on him to drop these charges; we are demanding it. If he refuses, he will be in for the fight of his life as faces the collective and growing wrath of the nation’s journalists and free press advocates.”