Student Journalists Intimidated, Attacked in St. Louis By Police & Ferguson Protesters
Student journalists have recently had it rough in greater St. Louis. In two separate incidents, St. Louis police overzealously held and questioned a pair of j-students completing a class project and Ferguson protesters allegedly beat a j-student so badly he had to be hospitalized.
First, the law enforcement intimidation. Late last month, two Lindenwood University students traveled to a St. Louis police station as part of a report they were preparing on a creepy trend involving thieves swiping equipment from area musical groups. While at the station, the students decided to grab B-roll of cop cars in the parking lot. They asked for and received permission to shoot from a nearby officer — but didn’t actually need his approval since they were recording from a public sidewalk.
The trouble started after the officer who OK’d the B-roll went AWOL. According to a local news report, “As [the students] packed up their gear and started the car … an officer asked them to exit the car and give up their keys and phones, then asked for the girls’ names and Social Security numbers, sorted through their bags and asked to review the video they shot with the camera. … [T]he girls were eventually able to explain who they were and why they were there. After about a dozen police met with them for more than hour, [one of the students] said they were allowed to leave.”
To their credit, Lindenwood officials publicly and passionately criticized the officers’ act of intimidation and defended students’ freedom to report. In response, police released a statement confirming, “We respect their First Amendment rights and regret any discomfort they may have experienced.”
Separately, some demonstrators meeting at a St. Louis church about future Ferguson activism spontaneously attacked a student reporter they erroneously claimed was live-streaming the proceedings.
The University of Missouri-St. Louis student, Chris Schaefer, has laid out his version of events on a crowdfunding page that is aiming to raise $2,200 to help cover his related hospital bills.
According to Schaefer, who has been covering Ferguson-related news since the city’s initial unrest in August:
“I had my phone out but it was just in my hand and all of the sudden one person shouted he is live-streaming and pointed at me. Then about five people rushed me and started pushing me to the door, they also ripped the phone from my hands along with the charging cable. Then they threw me against the exit door and I fell outside. I was then hit a couple times in the head and face. I fell to the ground. I then almost lost consciousness but looked up at five people who were punching and kicking me. I blocked many punches with my arm and hand and I got kicked severely in the stomach and sides and back.”