Journalists Arrested In Ferguson Promise Not To Promote The Settlement
from the interesting-agreement dept
Back in 2014, as the protests in Ferguson, Missouri were the main story everyone was following, we noted a troubling pattern of police in the area arresting journalists on no basis whatsoever. This happened even after a court told them to knock if off. And yet, the fallout from this is still happening. For reasons that still don’t make any sense at all, prosecutors have charged two journalists — Ryan Reilly and Wesley Lowery — with trespassing, after they failed to leave a McDonald’s fast enough (they were leaving, just apparently not fast enough).
Back in March, St. Louis County “accidentally” issued arrest warrants for the two of them:
St. Louis County, seeking to give @WesleyLowery and me the full municipal court experience, has mistakenly issued warrants for our arrest.
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) March 16, 2016
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) March 23, 2016
They eventually were told the warrants were issued in error, but it still shows how ridiculous this situation became. Finally, on Thursday, officials announced that they were dropping the charges against Reilly and Lowery, in exchange for a promise that the two will not sue the county.
Meanwhile, some other journalists who had been detained had already filed a lawsuit over the unlawful detention and, on Wednesdsay, it was announced that a settlement has been reached in which law enforcement officers will receive more training. While the official details of the settlement were “confidential,” the Huffington Post got a copy of the settlement using a FOIA request and found some interesting details, including an agreement that none of the four journalists in question will “publicize” the agreement in any way:
Under the deal, Ryan Devereaux, Lukas Hermsmeier, Ansgar Graw and Frank Herrmann cannot ?take any steps to publicize any of the terms? of the settlement. The agreement requires St. Louis County to pay $75,000 to resolve the federal civil rights lawsuit from the reporters, but like many settlements does not require the county to admit liability.
The agreement, a copy of which was obtained by The Huffington Post through a public records request, will also require all officers with the police department to undergo mandatory in-service training on media access and the right to record police activity.
Of course, it shouldn’t take a lawsuit for police to learn about the right of anyone (not just the press!) to record police activity. And, even though this information is getting out anyway, it seems pretty ridiculous that part of this settlement has this kind of gag order. These people are reporters. Their whole focus is on sharing and spreading information. It sounds like the St. Louis County Police Dept. must have really wanted to try to keep this settlement quiet… and now that’s backfiring too. Maybe it should just stop trying to arrest and muzzle the press.