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Last night two reporters, Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, were arrested by out-of-control police while covering the out-of-control police situation in Ferguson, Missouri. The two were working inside a McDonald’s when a number of officers came in and asked them for identification. Lowery was recording them, as is his right and job as a journalist. Eventually the officers asked them to gather their things and leave. Lowery was eventually arrested, and slammed against a soda machine, for resisting police orders because he wasn’t sure which door to exit and had to gather his things.
As I turned, my backpack, which was slung over one shoulder, began to slip. I said, “Officers, let me just gather my bag.” As I did, one of them said, “Okay, let’s take him.”
Multiple officers grabbed me. I tried to turn my back to them to assist them in arresting me. I dropped the things from my hands.
“My hands are behind my back,” I said. “I’m not resisting. I’m not resisting.” At which point one officer said: “You’re resisting. Stop resisting.”
Reilly, too, was arrested for vaguely resisting/annoying the cops:
“The officer in question, who I repeatedly later asked for his name, grabbed my things and shoved them into my bag,” said Reilly, who appeared on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” shortly after his release to recount the arrest. “He used his finger to put a pressure point on my neck.”
“They essentially acted as a military force. It was incredible,” Reilly said. “The worst part was he slammed my head against the glass purposefully on the way out of McDonald’s and then sarcastically apologized for it.”
What happened was another case of militarized police officers going way out of bounds to prevent the media from covering the war zone that is Ferguson. (See, also: firing tear gas at journalists from Al Jazeera America.) All of these journalists have a right and some would say duty to cover what’s been going on following the police killing of a teenager, Michael Brown. They have a right to ask for police identification and to shoot video of police acting, well, unscrupulously.
At least that’s one opinion. Another is that of MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough! He thinks that reporters should do everything the police say even when police are in the wrong. Joe has been there. Whenever the police ask Joe Scarborough to do something, even if it’s something that they’re outside their bounds asking, he says, “yes sir” or “yes ma’am,” because Joe Scarborough is a great American and a great American is Joe Scarborough:
“I’ve been in places where police officers said, ‘all right you know what, this is cordoned off, you guys need to move along.’ You know what I do? I go, ‘yes, sir, or yes, ma’am.’ I don’t sit there and have a debate and film the police officer unless I want to get on TV and have people talk about me the next day,” Scarborough said on “Morning Joe.” “I am sure I am just the worst person in the world for saying this. I can only judge how I would treat my son who is a reporter who, if he were in this position, okay, well, you know what? Next time a police officer tells you that you’ve got to move along because you’ve got riots outside, well, you probably should move along.”
Lowery, who is not Joe Scarborough’s son, was asked about this lecture on CNN this morning and agreed — at least with the part about how Joe Scarborough is the worst person in the world for saying that:
Well I would invite Joe Scarborough to come down to Ferguson and get out of 30 Rock where he’s sitting sipping his Starbucks smugly. I invite him to come down here and talk to residents of Ferguson where I have been Monday afternoon having tear gas shot at me, rubber bullets shot at me, having mothers, daughter, a 19-year-old boy, crying, running to pull his 21-year-old sister out from a cloud of tear gas thinking she would die,” Lowery said on CNN’s “New Day.” “I would invite Joe Scarborough down here to do some reporting on the ground, and then maybe we can have an educated conversation about what’s happening down here.” [...]
“I have little patience for talking heads. This is too important. This is a community in the United States of America, where we’re seeing it on fire, they are on fire, this community is on edge, there is so much happening here and instead of getting more reporters on the ground we have people like Joe Scarborough who are running their mouths and have no idea what they’re talking about,” Lowery said.
Scarborough isn’t the only TV “journalist” comfortably ensconced in a Manhattan studio who just doesn’t “get” why all these folks, reporters and citizens alike, have to “taint” the good name of the police like this. Militarized SWAT death zombies are just there to protect the people, and so wherever some might see abuse of power, others see provocation of the police that warrants an arrest. Here’s Sean Hannity this week explaining how everything goes all hunky-dory whenever he interacts with the police.
By the way, I don’t know how you are when you get pulled over by a cop. I know how I am all the times I did. [...] When a cop pulls me over, I put my hands outside of the car. If I’m carrying a weapon, which I’m licensed to carry in New York, the first thing I tell the police officer is, ‘Officer, I want you to know I have a legal firearm in the car.’ First thing I say to the officer. He’ll ask, ‘Where is it?’ I’ll say, ‘It’s in my holster.’ And he says, ‘Alright, just keep your hands outside.’ That’s usually the protocol. And then ‘Can I have your license and registration, please? Move slowly.’ And I often would even step out of the car, lift my shirt up so he can see where the gun is. ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir,’ writes me a ticket.’ Thank you, sir,’ and that’s it. You battle the issue in court.
So next time you hear stories about obvious abuses of police power, don’t believe them. The victims of these abuses must have been asking for it, and if we all act like Joe Scarborough or Sean Hannity, there will never be any problems.
Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.More Jim Newell.