Overnight, two reporters were arrested while covering the civil unrest ongoing in Ferguson, Missouri, which have exploded as a result of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown during an altercation with police.
These reporters’ account of their detention, the only account available as police have failed to explain why those reporters were physically bound and detained, suggests that the police were responding in a heavy-handed and unprovoked fashion.
Some appear to disagree. Take MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, for example.
“When the cops tell you for like the 30th time ‘Let’s go, you know what that means son? It means, ‘Let’s go,’” Scarborough said of a hypothetical in which his reporter son was involved in this same scenario.
“I’ve been in places where police officers said, ‘Alright, you know what? This place is cordoned off, you guys need to move along,’” he continued. “And you know what I do? I go, ‘Yes, sir.’ Or ‘Yes, ma’am.’”
“I don’t sit there and have a debate and film the police officer, unless I want to get on TV and have people talk about me the next day,” Scarborough concluded.
Well, one of those detained reporters, The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery, did not take kindly to Scarborough’s commentary. When asked about the MSNBC host’s comments on CNN, Lowery did not mince words.
“I would invite Joe Scarborough to come down to Ferguson and get out of 30 Rock where he’s sipping his Starbucks, smugly,” Lowery said. “I would invite Joe Scarborough down here to do some reporting on the ground and then maybe we can have an educated conversation about what’s happening here.”
“I have little patience for talking heads,” he continued. “This is too important. This is a community – a community in the United States of America – where things are on fire. They are on fire. This community is on edge.”
Lowery said he had no regrets about his actions, and reserved his only regrets for the actions of the police that night.
Scarborough is not wrong: An investigation into this incident is what is called for, not rioting when police won’t surrender Brown’s shooter to a crowd to face mob justice. Lowery is also correct: The police do seem to have used undue force and detained reporters who were merely performing their constitutionally protected roles.
There is merit to both Scarborough and Lowery’s arguments, and a debate over how appropriate the actions of the police in Ferguson have been is due. It is a conversation this country will engage in over the coming days.