Thursday, August 14, 2014

Police arrest reporters who are doing their jobs

I have no idea what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, when a black teenager was killed by police bullets. I do know that the police there are not making themselves look good with their military gear and aggressive tactics. They are arresting reporters?

I am reminded, uncomfortably, of the complaints 50 years ago about "outside agitators" stirring up the local populace. Reporters were blamed then, too, and roughed up by police. Karl Fleming, who began his newspaper career in Wilson and went on to cover the civil rights movement for Newsweek out of the Atlanta bureau, wrote in his "Son of the Rough South" memoir about precautions reporters in Mississippi and Alabama took at the height of the civil rights protests. They holed up in motel rooms with the door barricaded and would not open the door at night. They kept watch over the parking lot for suspicious vehicles that might carry gangs out to frighten or kill them.

In Ferguson, police are arresting reporters and bullying them in a McDonald's restaurant for no apparent reason. Perhaps worse is the militarization of local police in the past couple of decades. Even small-town police have armored vehicles and heavy weapons that make them look like a military force instead of local law enforcement.

I don't know what happened to spark the unrest in Ferguson, but I do know that what the unrest has shown us about police there is disturbing.

No comments: