Reporters charged with trespassing, interfering with police after covering Ferguson protests

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FERGUSON, Mo. – Several people were arrested in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday following a day of civil disobedience.

Police say many of those civilian protesters might face a fine or jail time for their actions, which allegedly included throwing items at officers.

However, a pair of arrests that occurred last year is making new waves around the country.

Wesley Lowery, a reporter for the Washington Post, was detained in a McDonald’s while he was covering demonstrations related to the death of Michael Brown.

The McDonald’s was being used as a staging area for members of the press.

Lowery says officers came into the restaurant and asked him and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly for identification.

A little while later, they were asked to leave.

Lowery told the Washington Post he was given conflicting information about where to exit and was trying to gather his things when he was grabbed, slammed into a soda machine and arrested.

Reilly said police gave reporters ” a countdown like we were 5-year-olds.”

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After spending over an hour in jail, they were released without any charges being filed.

Now, Lowery has received a court summons, ordering him to appear in a St. Louis County municipal court on Aug. 24.

According to the court summons, Lowery is being charged with trespassing on private property despite being asked to leave. He is also charged with interfering with a police officer’s performance of his duties because he allegedly failed to comply with “repeated commands to immediately exit” the McDonald’s.

“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 in a statement. “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. This latest action represents contemptible overreaching by prosecutors who seem to have no regard for the role of journalists seeking to cover a major story and following normal practice.”

Lowery isn’t the only reporter facing charges.

Authorities have also charged Reilly with trespassing and interfering with police.

“A crime was committed at the McDonald’s, not by journalists, but by local police who assaulted  Ryan and Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post during violent arrests,” Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s chief, and Sam Stein, the site’s senior politics editor, said in a statement. “If Wesley Lowery and Ryan J. Reilly can be charged like this with the whole country watching, just imagine what happens when nobody is.”

A county spokesperson said they couldn’t comment on the charges because of a “pending legal matter.”

Lowery and Reilly face up to $1,000 fine and a year in county jail.

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