WaPo and HuffPost Reporters Respond After Prosecutors Drop Ferguson Charges

"If every journalist covering criminal justice in this country was forced to go through the process we did, our coverage would be much more critical."

St. Louis County has dropped its senseless crusade against The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and The Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly, who were arrested in August 2014 and then charged a year later for having the temerity to cover the protests in Ferguson, or, if you go by the offenses listed on the now-dropped charges, for trespassing and interfering with a police officer.

“The facts were on our side,” writes Reilly in the Huffington Post. “The manager of the McDonald’s never asked us to leave (let alone be arrested) and welcomed us back to the restaurant on many occasions. The evidence made clear what had happened: Stressed-out officers who didn’t want their actions recorded had decided to lash out at a couple of reporters.”

And as Reilly details the long, drawn-out process that followed after charges were issued (just under the deadline), he acknowledges that he and Lowery were lucky. “Had I been the one paying the legal bills instead of The Huffington Post’s parent company (thanks, AOL!), I may have been forced to give up and cop a plea a long time ago,” he writes. “We had enormous advantages in this case. Not everyone arrested on a municipal ordinance violation has the U.S. president and attorney general speak out on their behalf.”

Lowery reiterated those sentiments in a series of tweets.

But Reilly did find that “valuable experience” silver lining:

If every journalist covering criminal justice in this country was forced to go through the process we did, our coverage would be much more critical.

I’ve thought a lot about the conversations I had with citizens and demonstrators in Ferguson back in August 2014. It seemed like everyone I spoke with had a horror story about the police and municipal courts. But even after my arrest and witnessing the way police treated protesters even during peaceful demonstrations in broad daylight, I was still skeptical that the entire system in the region, including the courts, could be as broken as they described. It couldn’t possibly be that bad, I thought.

So now I’m willing to do something the St. Louis County Police Department seems incapable of: admit I was wrong.