Ferguson, MO- Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who was placed in charge of security in Ferguson by Governor Jay Nixon, has said that journalists are being arrested due to safety concerns stemming from abounding protests. Johnson blamed unrest and chaos for the detainments and has not yet explained if the arrests of media members will continue or cease.
“I’m going to tell you in the midst of chaos, when officers are running around, we’re not sure who’s a journalist and who’s not,” said Johnson in a recording. “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,” he said.
“So yes we are- 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.”
Scott Olson, a photographer for Getty Images who captured many iconic photos of the protests in Ferguson, was shown being arrested by police Monday despite wearing a large camera and what appeared to be a press pass.
A court agreement was signed August 15th by the city of Ferguson, the county of St. Louis, and the Missouri Highway Patrol Superintendent acknowledging that “media and the 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 perform their duties.” It is unclear whether or not the multiple reporters who have been arrested had interfered with police activity.
Johnson also has defended a new rule that prohibits protesters in Ferguson from standing in one place. According to the Huffington Post, protesters were told on Monday by police officers to continue walking, with an exception for those standing in an “approved protest area”.
“We are not going to let groups congregate and build into larger groups because that’s what causes problems,” said Johnson. “Because what happens is, the peaceful protesters gather, and the other element blends in. Now they blend in, and that’s what’s been causing us some issues. So by allowing them to walk, that’s not going to let the other element blend in and define this group.”