Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery was a guest on the Tom Joyner Morning Show on Wednesday, August 14th and hours later he was arrested at a nearby McDonalds in Ferguson, Missouri. He was there covering the story of unrest, following the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police over the weekend. “Officers say, you should get out of here, things are getting crazy. If you choose to stay here we’re not going to be able to protect you but they weren’t satisfied that we were going to stay and cover the riot,” Lowery says. What he says next will surprise you! Click the link above to hear the entire interview or read it below!
TOM JOYNER: Wesley Lowery from The Washington Post is on the phone and out of jail. What’s happening?
WESLEY LOWERY: (Laugh) Thank you, Tom.
TOM JOYNER: (Laugh) Not you too, you’re a journalist.
WESLEY LOWERY: My objective facts tell me that I can do all these other interviews, but the day I go on Tom Joyner. (Laughter)
TOM JOYNER: Come on, Wesley, not you too. All right, Wesley, what happened?
WESLEY LOWERY: So, for people not on the ground here in Ferguson, the main stress where everything’s happening, where the initial shooting of Michael Brown happened, where the protests have been happening, are on what essentially is a main thoroughfare off of a, like a freeway, actually. So you actually can imagine you got gas stations, as we’ve seen the one that was burned, McDonald’s, The Dollar Store, and so it was during the afternoon, there was a massive afternoon protest, largely peaceful afternoon protest, the police came out in a massive show of force. For myself and many other reporters it was all hands on deck, we were all covering this live from the sites, tweets, a lot of live updates, a lot of pictures, because this isn’t the first time the full SWAT and riot team had showed up during the daylight. And so here we are documenting this and independently of each other, Ryan Riley, from The Huffington Post, the other reporter and his team, our phones were dying.
So what we did was we walked about two blocks, there’s a McDonald’s. This has basically been the media center of all of Ferguson. Any reporter here, he’ll tell you that, because as everybody knows that McDonald’s are definitely Wi-Fi. And so for reporters who are typing and filing, anytime I’m on the road I think I need to find a McDonald’s or a Starbucks. And so we’re in the McDonald’s writing the reporting, like a lot of reporters have been. I believe him and I were the only two reporters at that moment because everything was topping off. We had to pull ourselves out for a second because our phones were dead. And so we’re the only two reporters in there, we’re working and filing, there’s maybe half a dozen people in there. And at one point I look up and I see that there are six or seven officers now in the McDonald’s, you know, with their large weapons walking around and they’re talking to some of the patrons saying you should get out of here, things are getting crazy down there, you should get out of there. So obviously I went on high alert. You know, I started to try to take pictures of what was going on in the McDonald’s, tweeting that; hey, officers have just shown up and they’re now evacuating us.
All of the sudden the story had come to our little alcove where we thought we had escaped it. But at the time they did not order us to leave. They said if you just choose to stay here we’re not going to be able to protect you. If you call 911 we’re not going to answer, we’re not going to show up here, we told you; you need to leave. Like, all right, cool. They walk back to the front, they were not satisfied with the idea that we were willing to brave whatever it was, that we weren’t scared by the idea of a riot, in fact we were here to cover if there was going to be a riot. So then they went to the manager to try to talk him into kicking us out. Tried to talk him into giving them authority to evacuate the place or whatnot.
I had no idea whether or not that was granted but what I do know was a few moments later some of the officers re-approached us and said we’re evacuating, now you have to get out of here, you’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got my phone in my hands, so I hit record on my video, because, again, we’re being evacuated from a McDonald’s, this is going to be good video no matter what happens. This is going to be something, this is going to help show what was going on in the ground, at which point an officer with a large assault weapon says to me; stop recording, turn that off. And I said, as I’m walking backwards, still recording him, trying to get to my stuff, because I have no intention of staying in this McDonald’s they’re evacuating.
I said; Officer, don’t I have a first amendment right to record you? He didn’t like that, but he didn’t directly respond to it. He just said; move it, move it, move it. So here I am holding in my left hand, it’s why my video has my fingers all over it, because I don’t really know how to hold these in my left hand, but with my right hand I’m trying to pack up my stuff, and, for some context, and I’m kind of going long here, but some context right before that, because my phone was dead, I was sitting there letting it charge, but also trying to do a little bit of a Twitter Q&A with people. I’ve been on the ground for a few days here, so I know there are some people who aren’t in Ferguson had some questions I might have answers to because they might’ve missed it.
So I was going back and forth. I have all of my notebooks spread across this entire desk. I was digging through my notes trying to be able to answer questions for people. And so it’s taking me a little while with one hand to pack everything up, unplug computers, unplug things, load them up, try to zip up my bag. Meanwhile, as he’s saying move, he’s gesturing with his weapon, which for me, I’ll be honest, it means, I might have been a little less attentive to packing and a little more attentive to this large weapon being gestured at me.
And so as I’m trying to pack my stuff up, I get up, I put my backpack on, I start walking towards the door, and I say; sir, am I going to be able to get my car, or do I need to walk out? I don’t have time for your questions. I don’t have time – I said; sir, I’m trying to leave, I need to know, can I go to my car? Or should I just walk out? And, again, this is not some type of urgent situation; they’re evacuating a McDonald’s two blocks away from the action.
They could’ve taken 20 minutes to do it, it wouldn’t have made any difference, there was no immediate threat to anyone inside that McDonald’s. And so here we are, and so I have my bag over one shoulder, and finally he says; yeah, you can go to your car. So I’m walking towards that door, at which point another officer approaches me from that direction and says; you can’t go out that door, go out the other one. I said okay, sir, so I just; can you tell me what door to go out? I’ll go out it. But the two of you are giving me opposite instructions.
They confer for a quick moment, they point me in the other direction, so as I turn around, my backpack, which is slung over just one shoulder, because, again, I’ve got my phone in my hand, begins to slide off of my shoulder. I say; Officer, just give me one second, I just got to readjust this bag. I didn’t want them to think I was stopping or defying their orders, that I need to readjust this bag, it’s about to fall, everything’s going to spill; you’re going to be upset. That’s when they said; okay, let’s take him. They threw me up against the …
TOM JOYNER: Threw you up against the …