Reporters arrested in Ferguson sue St. Louis police

Police officers run towards protesters after a demonstration turned violent, following the grand jury decision in the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of Michael Brown, in Oakland, California, November 26, 2014. (Reuters/Stephen Lam)
Four journalists are suing St. Louis police over their arrests during the Ferguson, Missouri protests last August. They claim to have been detained and mistreated by the officers even though their press credentials were in plain view.

The suit was filed Monday by US citizen Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept and three German nationals residing in the US – Ansgar Graw of Die Welt, Frank Herrmann of the Rheinische Post group and freelance reporter Lukas Hermsmeier.

“This was a very new experience,” Graw wrote following his release. He had visited many disputed areas and conflict zones, from Gaza and Georgia to Iraq and Cuba. “But to be arrested and yelled at and be rudely treated by police? For that I had to travel to Ferguson and St. Louis in the United States of America.”

The four plaintiffs are charging the St. Louis Police Department with “intentionally and willfully” subjecting them to “violations of freedom of the press and free speech” for the purpose of “obstructing, chilling, deterring, and retaliating” against reporters covering the unrest in the Missouri town.

According to the San Francisco-based Freedom of the Press Foundation, 24 journalists were arrested in Ferguson between August and November 2014, including RT’s Denise Reese.

READ MORE:Revealed: Ferguson no-fly zone was meant to keep media away

Protests broke out following the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. In addition to police officers from nearby departments, Missouri authorities deployed the National Guard, banned all assembly and even established a no-fly zone over Ferguson.

At the time, the authorities said officers had difficulty telling reporters apart from the protesting activists. In their complaint, Graw and Herrmann allege they were detained while carrying their cameras and wearing press badges around their necks. Hermsmeier and Devereaux claim they had shown the officers their media credentials before they were shot at with rubber bullets and arrested.

The complaint names the St. Louis County Police and the County of St. Louis, as well as 20 officers identified only as “John Doe,” as they refused to disclose their names to the reporters at the time of the arrests. One officer reportedly introduced himself as “Donald Duck.” The plaintiffs demand unspecified punitive damages and a jury trial.

Last week, the St. Louis County Police, city police and the Missouri Highway Patrol agreed to settle a federal lawsuit by six Ferguson protesters over the use of tear gas and other chemical agents against the demonstrators.

READ MORE:Ferguson-filming journalist arrested at protest gets court hearing