11:31 GMT +315 December 2017
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    Protesters run from a cloud of tear gas after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri,

    Journalists Sue St. Louis County Police Over Ferguson Abuse

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    Four journalists arrested covering demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri have filed a lawsuit claiming they were beaten and falsely arrested by law enforcement officials who wanted prevent them from reporting on the unrest.

    The plaintiffs are Ryan Devereux, a journalist with the Intercept; German political correspondent  Ansgar Graw; Frank Hermann, a german newspaper correspondent; and German freelancer Lukas Hermsmeier. According to the lawsuit, the four were arrested on August 18 and 19, and that the arrests were "undertaken with the intention of obstructing, chilling, deterring, and retaliating against (the) plaintiffs for engaging in constitutionally protected speech, news gathering and recording of police activities." 

    The lawsuit claims that the police used excessive force and intimidation, employing methods like shooting the plaintiffs with rubber bullets, to prevent them from gathering information. It also claims they spent hours handcuffed in custody. The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount in damages. After unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was shot by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in August, protests erupted within the small St. Louis suburb before spreading to cities across the country. The state brought in police officers from around Missouri, in addition to the National Guard, in an attempt to curb the unrest.

    The journalists’ lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, and named the defendants as the St. Louis Police Department, 20 of its officers (whose names were left out of the lawsuit) dispatched to Ferguson to assist local law enforcement, as well as St. Louis County. 

    All four journalists claimed to have been taking pictures and interviewing protesters at the time of their arrest. 

    Devereaux, Hermsmeier, Hermann, and Graw are four of at least 10 journalists arrested while attempting to cover events in Ferguson. Captain Ron Johnson of the State’s Highway Patrol told the Associated Press that law enforcement officials had a difficult time discerning journalists from protesters. 

    "In the midst of chaos, when officers are running around, we're not sure who's a journalist and who's not," Johnson said at the time, when the AP and other media outlets sent letters to Missouri regarding the treatment of journalists and activists alike. 

    The arrests were part of a "concerted effort to suppress constitutionally protected newsgathering," the suit alleges.

    Related:

    St. Louis, State Police Take Over Ferguson Protest Security
    Ferguson Mayor, City Council Urge Residents to Maintain Peace
    Ferguson Attack Likely Attempt to Shatter Race Relations Progress - Holder
    Abu-Jamal on Obama, Ferguson, and How African-Americans 'Live in Hell'
    US Attorney General Prepared to Dismantle Ferguson Police Department
    Tags:
    court, journalists, St. Louis Police Department, Darren Wilson, Michael Brown, St. Louis, Missouri, Ferguson, United States
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