Stephen Sinclair is a Canadian freelance writer who has been publishing professionally for several years.
Update: October 4, 2017
Steven Oh, with The Young Turks, is reporting that Jordan Chariton and Ty Bayliss have been released by St. Louis police.
Close to 200 arrested in St. Louis
Last night, October 3, 2017, Jordan Chariton, with The Young Turks, his camera operator, Ty Bayliss, and a group of other press members, covering peaceful protests in St. Louis over the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley in connection to his 2011 shooting of Lamar Smith, a black man who was unarmed, as reported by Splinter News, were arrested and held overnight.
In a YouTube video, TYT co-founder Cenk Uygur called the arrests "absolutely outrageous," and described how St. Louis police first targeted members of the press in an apparent attempt to stop dissemination of the events before moving on to arrest protesters.
As of Wednesday morning, October 4, Mr. Uygur reported, in a tweet, that Mr. Charition and Mr. Bayliss were still being held in a St. Louis jail.
Before Bayliss was arrested, Chariton can be seen in TYT footage stating that he is about to be doused with pepper spray and donning protective goggles. He then questioned officers as to why Bayliss was being arrested.
"Do not face me again," a voice seeming to belong to a police officer can be heard as footage from Bayliss' camera begins pointing at the ground.
"You are under arrest," a voice seeming to come from another police officer said to Chariton.
"For what?" Chariton asked.
"For being on the highway," the officer answered.
"So they're arresting, it seems, journalists who covered a peaceful demonstration," Chariton can be heard in TYT footage. "I thought there was a freedom of the press and a First Amendment, but I guess not in St. Louis."
Audio accompanying the TYT footage then went in and out and Chariton could no longer be heard, while glimpses of police officers' pants, shoes, and pepper spray canisters can be seen. Police officers giving directions to those under arrest, and their compliance, can be heard in the background, during periods when audio was audible.
Protesters can be seen and heard chanting, "We must love and support each other," and, "It is our duty to fight for our freedom," as columns of St. Louis police officers in riot gear surrounded those gathered, who were seated peacefully on the ground after being ordered to do so, and then arresting them, one by one.
Before being arrested, Chariton noted that officers were arresting "a legal observer."
Arrests seen violating First Amendment rights
Among those arrested included Democratic Member of the Missouri House of Representatives Bruce Franks and Reverend Starsky Wilson, a civil rights activist.
One observer described police trapping the protesters and members of the press beside a building before ordering them to disperse, in a manner that didn't allow an avenue of escape. Other reports state that no "dispersal order" was given.
"St. Louis police need to understand that we live in America, where we have First Amendment rights... These are brave protesters who are doing civil disobedience, you can clearly see that there was no violence, at all," Uygur stated. "A separate right, freedom of the press, [is] guaranteed under the Constitution... It is a terrible and dangerous precedent."
In mid-September, shortly after the acquittal of Stockley, media members, including photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson, reported members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department marching along Tucker Boulevard chanting, "Whose streets? Our streets." Footage of the chants was later uploaded to YouTube.
Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Leyshock with the St. Louis Police described the actions of the chanting officers as "not acceptable," as reported by Splinter News.
According to the Guardian, prosecutors in the case against Stockley claimed that the former officer had planted a gun in 24-year-old Lamar Smith's car after shooting him five times in the chest. Stockley claimed that he saw Mr. Smith holding a gun and that he "felt he was in imminent danger."
In dashcam footage, Stockley can be heard stating that he was going to "going to kill this motherfucker, don’t you know it."
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Stephen Sinclair