While covering a protest in front of the Ferguson police station Saturday night, reporter Trey Yingst was arrested for failure to disperse.
With a grand jury decision on Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson imminent, media has descended upon Ferguson, Missouri, to chronicle the aftermath. It is widely expected that large-scale protests will take place in and around Ferguson once the announcement is made, especially since nearly everyone in the area feels that Wilson will not be charged with any crime. The region is on edge as each day brings the possibility of a public declaration that could impact parts of the St. Louis metro area. Anxiety was increased this past Monday when Missouri Governor Jay Nixon preemptively declared a state of emergency ahead of the grand jury decision.
Journalists from around the world figured that an announcement would be made no later than this weekend. Therefore, dozens, if not hundreds, of reporters flocked to the St. Louis area. However, it appears that rumors that the decision would be announced over the weekend turned out to be a false alarm as it was learned that the grand jury would reconvene on Monday and continue deliberating. Thus, with that in mind, there were a number of journalists with not much to do other than make their way to the nightly protests in Ferguson that have continuously transpired since Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown on August 9th.
Saturday night featured an organized march that started at the scene of Brown’s death and made its way to West Florissant Ave., which is where the majority of the protests in August occurred. Less than 100 protesters, led by the Lost Voices and Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, briefly shut down traffic on W. Florissant before heading back to Brown’s memorial on Canfield Drive. After the march, many of the protesters headed to the Ferguson police department, which has been the main focal point of demonstrations over the past couple of months.
Dozens of police were there to ‘greet’ roughly 60 protesters. The number of media members on the scene likely exceeded the actual protesters. This was noted by Deray McKesson, a protest organizer and activist.
Sometime after 11 PM local time, Trey Yingst, a reporter for the website News2Share, was arrested by police for ‘failure to disperse.’ After Yingst’s arrest, the commander at the scene held a small press conference and explained that Yingst was still in the street after police told people they needed to move back to the sidewalk. St. Louis County police even sent out a tweet providing an explanation.
This was disputed immediately by other reporters and protesters on the scene, who said that Yingst was actually on the sidewalk when police decided to arrest him.
There was another arrest Saturday night of a protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask who did not provide his name at the time. It appears he was also arrested for failure to disperse for refusing to stay out of the street. Police provided warning throughout the night that if traffic was impeded they would verbally warn offenders before commencing with arrests. Yingst was released from county jail a few hours after being arrested. He sent the following tweet after his arrest.
It seems obvious that police overreacted and arrested Yingst for no real cause. It seems his questioning of the officers led to him being snatched and grabbed. Perhaps it was an unsubtle message from police to the media, especially independent journalists such as Yingst, that they will be treated as agitators.