OTR Interviews

Washington Post reporter recounts arrest on the job in Ferguson, Missouri

Washington Post's Wesley Lowery details his encounter with police while covering the fourth night of unrest in Missouri following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 14, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Last night, Ferguson police arresting two reporters, "The Washington Post's" Wes Lowery and "Huffington Post's" Ryan Reilly. They said they were doing their work when SWAT officers started kicking everyone out of the fast-food restaurant. Lowry, thinking fast, recorded the chaos on his cell phone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Hurry up. Get your stuff and let's go.

WES LOWERY, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I'm working on it.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Stop videotaping and let's grab our stuff and go.

LOWERY: I have the right to videotape you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Hurry up, let's go.

LOWERY: Please don't wave that gun.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Let's go.

LOWERY: You see me working. Please do not --

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Time to go. Let's go.

LOWERY: Please don't wave the gun at me.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: We're down to about 45 seconds, let's go.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Let's go, let's go. I don't have time to ask questions.

LOWERY: I'm trying to ask questions.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: I don't have time for questions. Let's go.

(CROSSTALK)

LOWERY: Can I move my car?

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: You can move your car if your car is out here. Let's go.

LOWERY: It is. That's what I was asking about. Are you going to answer --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Let's go. Let's go.

LOWERY: -- or are you just being mean?

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Let's go.

LOWERY: I'm working, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Let's go.

Here is the door over here.

Let's go.

LOWERY: I'm going.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Let's go. You can move. Let's go. Move.

LOWERY: Sir --

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Let's move.

LOWERY: Sir --

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Let's move this way. Here is the door. This way or this way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: "The Washington Post's" Wes Lowery joins us on the phone.

Good evening, Wes. And, Wes, what were you being arrested for? Have you figured that out?

WES LOWERY, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: We were told that we were trespassing in a McDonald's where we had purchased food, we had been spending hours. In fact, today when I went back to McDonald's most of the employees were saying, we are so sorry for what happened to you, are you OK?

VAN SUSTEREN: Had McDonald's called the police or did the police just show up?

LOWERY: My understanding -- I can't say that definitively because the manager was not in today. But our understanding is that the police just showed up. They showed up. They asked people to leave. Not demanded, but asked. If the riot was coming to McDonald's, that's where we would want to be, being reporters. Wes said, we are fine, officers. You are warning us things are going to get hot. We understand. If the protest is moving this way, we want to stay. They didn't like that answer, and so then they decided that they were evacuating the McDonald's. It was no longer, you should leave, it's now you have to leave immediately.

VAN SUSTEREN: Were you actually handcuffed?

LOWERY: I was put in plastic restraints, plastic handcuffs, the kind that riot police officers use.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was it that prompted them to release you?

LOWERY: We were sitting in a jail cell and fellow reporter from the "L.A. Times" called the police chief and said, what in the world is going on? The police chief said, quote, "Oh, God."

(LAUGHTER)

And so he called in and got us out of the cell. They released us, gave us no information, no police report. We asked repeatedly for the officers' names, for badge numbers. They refused to cooperate with us and give us any information about who they were. Ryan was slammed into a door. I was thrown up into a soda fountain machine because we weren't leaving a private establishment fast enough and had the audacity to videotape police officers.

VAN SUSTEREN: I assume during the process you told them you were journalists, during the process where they were cuffing you?

LOWERY: My credentials were hanging from my neck the entire time. The reason it took so long is I had multiple notebooks strewn across the table. My computer was set up. We had had been working, using McDonald's essentially as an office.

VAN SUSTEREN: And for people who don't cover these stories, when you are out in the field, you make an office wherever someone will give you an outlet, to charge your phone and laptop, and you spend hours there. We all do that.

LOWERY: McDonalds, I'm not going to speak for them but they have been nice to us. A lot of reporters in and out. Only place with Wi-Fi. They have been great to us. Hard to believe McDonald's wanted us out. They never said that to us.

Again, we were forcibly removed. The officer was obsessed that I didn't pack up my things fast enough, which as can you see from the video, from the moment I start walking backwards to the moment I begin walking back forward again, it's less than a minute. I'm talking four or five notebooks, a computer plugged in, and I'm doing it with one hand because there is a SWAT officer with an assault weapon who was gesturing it at me. I thought I ought to record that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Wes, you have been the reporter, the national reporter there the longest. Tell me, in comparing tonight with like last night, does it look like there is going to be more trouble tonight or does the lid seem to be on it? Give me a compare and contrast.

LOWERY: Greta, I have got to tell you, things could not be more different. This is a different city tonight than it has been any other night. Monday night, during the tear gas and rubber bullets, I was worried for my life. Right now, it's an extremely peaceful protest. We have the superintendent of the state police out marching, or the highway patrol, is marching with the protesters. He is the man who grew up here. People are walking up to him and hugging him. The person with the bullhorn leading the march said, "Respect the police because they respect us." The tone is night and day right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Wes, thank you. Glad you are out of custody. Thank you, Wes.

(LAUGHTER)

LOWERY: I am, too. Thanks, Greta.