With the eyes of the nation on Ferguson, Missouri, the community suffered through another night of violence. Trymaine Lee, reporting directly from the scene for msnbc, published this report on the “chaos” in the streets, which included teargas, stun grenades, and journalists being taken into custody.
Young black men and women protesters, with their hands held high in the air, had refused to heed police orders to disperse as the sun set on this St. Louis suburb of 20,000. While there had been some taunts from the crowd, no one appeared armed and there was no evident threat to police. But as darkness descended, forces moved in, announcing on a bullhorn that the gathering was no longer peaceful and began firing tear gas and stun grenades, choking protesters lined along a main thoroughfare in Ferguson.Many protesters raced away, gasping for air, screaming, tearing up or vomiting as the gas produced a burning sensation in their eyes and on their skin. Heavy smoke filled the air for hours, illuminated in the darkness by flashes of light produced each time that a stun gun or noise grenade was fired.
For the first time since the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown on Saturday, reporters were arrested last night. The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly, both of whom were sitting in a McDonald’s when the police ordered them to leave. When the journalists didn’t move fast enough, they were roughed up and taken into custody.
Lowery spoke on the air with Rachel last night about the ordeal, while Reilly talked to msnbc’s Chris Hayes. The Washington Post, meanwhile, published video of Lowery’s arrest online. Both journalists were released soon after without formal charges.
Max Fisher noted that Washington Post reporters have been arrested in just two cities this year: Ferguson and Tehran.
It’s worth emphasizing that the significance of the reporters’ arrest isn’t the reporters themselves, as if developments in this St. Louis suburb are somehow more important now that the media is affected. Rather, the point is largely the opposite: if credentialed media professionals are facing this kind of treatment in Ferguson, it’s hard not to wonder what local protesters are experiencing.
For the last several days, Americans across the country have asked whether local law enforcement has gone too far, making an awful situation worse. Developments last night lend credence to those questions.
Since Saturday’s shooting and the subsequent protests, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has kept a very low profile, effectively playing no role in the story whatsoever, but as conditions deteriorated last night, calls for state leaders to get more engaged grew louder. Nixon finally issued a statement around 9 p.m., announcing that he has canceled plans and will be in Ferguson today.
“The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans. While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern,” Nixon said in a statement released early Thursday morning.
What’s more, White House officials indicated last night that President Obama has been briefed on developments.
With each passing night, there are hopes that tensions will ease and violence will subside. That quite obviously isn’t happening – conditions appear to be getting worse, not better, as the line between law enforcement and combat is “blurred,” as Adam Serwer put it.