Al Jazeera America producer Aaron Ernst and his team were confronted by two police officers last Thursday in Kinloch, a town neighboring Ferguson, Mo., and the journalists caught the interaction on tape.
Ernst was just outside Ferguson to cover the unrest which has played out over the last week, as police clash with demonstrators protesting the death of Michael Brown, which The Inquisitr has previously reported on. Along with Jung Park, director of photography for Al Jazeera’s America Tonight, and anchor Joie Chen, Ernst says he set off to interview cab driver and columnist Umar Lee.
After the interview, two Kinloch police officers approached the journalists and told them to move along, ostensibly for safety reasons. Leaving the area, the trio stopped to film a sign for their story, and were once again confronted by the same police officers. “To be totally clear,” Ernst stated in a write-up for Al Jazeera America, “we were on a public street. It was not blocked off and other cars occasionally passed. No curfew was in effect.”
A verbal exchange between the police and journalists ensued. At one point, after being told multiple times to leave the area, Lee inquired what the journalists had done wrong. One officer replied “I’m not saying you did anything wrong, I’m saying that I don’t want you here at this time of night.” The exchange culminated when one of the police officers grabbed Ernst’s arm:
“Officer 1: Don’t resist. I’ll bust your a**. I’ll bust your head right here.
“Ernst: [To JP] Are you filming this?
“Officer 1: Film it! I don’t give a sh*t. Because you’ll go, and I’ll sure confiscate your film for evidence.
“JP: No, what I’m saying is …
“Officer 1: I’m asking you to leave!
“Officer 2: Go now, or you get locked up!”
The officer eventually dropped Ernst’s arm, and the journalists went on their way. As Truthdig points out, however, Ernst reflected that the run-in with police revealed much about the situation in Ferguson:
“The vast majority of the officers I met around St. Louis were doing the best they could in a difficult and dangerous situation. But the type of officer that we encountered – one who uses his authority to bully the public and press, simply because he is protected by the law and a gun – gives others a bad name. That kind of police impunity seems to be at the root of the anger and protests we witnessed.
“In our case, the result was a minor inconvenience. But for many African-Americans living in neighborhoods heavily patrolled by police, the stakes of an encounter with officers who abuse their authority without fear of reprimand have proven to be much more deadly.”
Kinloch Police have not responded to the Al Jazeera journalist’s story.
[Image via Truthdig]