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Police In Ferguson Let High-Profile Journalists Go While Charging Regular Folks With Crimes

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The St. Louis County Police Department is no longer in charge of security in Ferguson, Missouri, after criticisms of heavy-handed tactics. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) | Scott Olson via Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday night, reporters from The Huffington Post and The Washington Post made national news when police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, assaulted and arrested them for not obeying orders quickly enough. Outrage, a demand for answers and calls for press freedom grew as word of what happened spread on social media. Shortly thereafter, the two men were released, in part, it seemed, due to their high-profile status.

"The chief thought he was doing you two a favor," one officer told them, making clear that their privileged position played a role in why they were let go.

That same night, St. Louis Alderman Antonio French was also arrested. French has been a non-stop presence at the protests, using Twitter to document the community's response to the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager. French's arrest, like those of the two journalists, received a significant amount of attention. Although he had to spend the night in jail, he was eventually released without facing any charges.

But French and the two reporters weren't the only ones arrested Wednesday night -- at least 13 other people were picked up as well.

Unfortunately for them, they didn't have the benefit of the media spotlight. They had to spend the night in jail, pay bail and were charged with crimes. Their problems will linger for a few weeks, while they await their court dates.

Liz Peinado works for French, and she and her coworker Meghan Flannery were waiting at the police station for their boss to be released. Both are alumni of Teach for America and had taught in the school district where Brown had just graduated high school. As on other nights, there were a few dozen people there protesting. The crowd was growing, Peinado said, and people were calling for French's release.

Shortly after midnight, a heavily armored Humvee and dozens of officers in full gear showed up and told everyone to leave or be arrested. While most of the crowd dispersed, Peinado told The Huffington Post that she and Flannery decided to stay, sitting on the sidewalk and tweeting what was happening.

"I sat down," she said, "legs crossed, one hand in the air holding a peace sign, one hand holding my phone on Twitter."

They decided to leave when the police said it was their "final warning." Peinado said they were afraid that the officers were going to spray tear gas, so they went to Flannery's car, accompanied by two other people.

Peinado said she was already in the car and Flannery was about to get in when "at least seven armed" police officers surrounded them and told them to get out of the vehicle because they were under arrest.

"I stand at 4'11". I'm a tiny woman," Peinado said. "And they're like, 'Get out of the car.' So I'm like, I have a choice: I can probably get manhandled and hope someone is watching this, or get manhandled and no one is ever going to know about it. So I just got out of the car."

They got into a police van and were driven across the street to headquarters, where they spent the night in a jail cell. There were three women in the cell and only one bed. There was also no toilet paper; Peinado had to ask five times before someone provided it.

"I wish I could describe how cold it was," said Peinado. "They refused to give us blankets because they said they didn't have any. But it was really cold. Everyone in all of the cells was complaining about it."

Peinado and Flannery were released the next morning on $300 bail each. They were charged with failure to comply with police orders and a noise violation.

Umar Lee, a columnist for the St. Louis Evening-Whirl, was also at the protest Wednesday night and was also arrested. He told The Huffington Post that he was charged with the same crimes as Peinado and Flannery.

Ryan Frank, a filmmaker, was there as well and faced identical charges. And like Peinado and Flannery, he said he was actually getting up to leave when he was arrested.

The St. Louis County Police Department, which was in charge of security in Ferguson at the time, did not return a request for comment. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) relieved them of those duties after intense criticism of their heavy-handed, militaristic response to the protests.

Frank posted a video of the arrests on YouTube. Peinado is the woman in denim shirt who gets out of the car, and Lee is shown being handcuffed at the end:

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USA Today's Yamiche Alcindor provides an intimate look at how Michael Brown's parents have been dealing with the loss of their son:

Phones constantly ring with reporters asking for interviews or family members offering support. Last week, as demands reached a tipping point, both parents moved into hotels to shield themselves.

In the days leading up to the funeral, Brown's mother continued to cry and spoke in whispers as she tried to explain her feelings.

"They say tomorrow is going to be the hardest day, but I think today was — just seeing my baby laying there, cold," Lesley McSpadden, 34, told USA TODAY. "It did something to my heart. It's too much. It's too much."

Read the rest at USA Today.

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New audio has surfaced that allegedly captures the moment when Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, on Aug. 9.

CNN aired the unverified recording on Monday night. Six shots can be heard, followed by a pause, then several more. A private autopsy performed on Aug. 17 at the request of Brown's family found that the 18-year-old was shot 6 times, including twice in the head.

Read the rest here.

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USA Today reporter, Yamiche Alcindor shares photo of program which includes tributes to Michael Brown from his mother and father

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08/25/2014 11:57 AM EDT
Program For The Funeral
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08/25/2014 11:04 AM EDT
Noteworthy Funeral Attendees
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08/25/2014 10:58 AM EDT
Waiting For Brown's Family
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Police Captain Ron Johnson Arrives
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08/25/2014 10:45 AM EDT
Mo. Sen. To Attend Funeral
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08/25/2014 10:37 AM EDT
Casket In Place

MSNBC reports:

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08/25/2014 10:35 AM EDT
Funeral Security
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08/25/2014 10:33 AM EDT
Brown's Father Asks For Peace
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MSNBC reports:

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08/25/2014 10:26 AM EDT
Hands Up
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08/25/2014 10:22 AM EDT
Sanctuary Filling Fast For Funeral

CNN reports:

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Missouri congressman Lacy Clay (D) said on Thursday that he had "serious concerns" about the prosecutor in charge of Michael Brown's case.

"I also have serious concerns about the local prosecutors, about their ability to fairly prosecute this case in the interests of justice. To deliver justice to this community, or to Michael Brown's family. And I say that because we have a track record," Clay told CNN.

Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch has come under heavy scrutiny in the days following Brown's death. Critics say that McCulloch's ties to law enforcement will cloud his judgement and have called on Governor Jay Nixon (D) to appoint a special prosecutor instead. A petition against him has received over 70,000 signatures.

McCulloch's father was a police officer killed in the line of duty.

For his part, McCulloch has promised that his investigation will be fair and thorough. In a statement, he said:

I have no intention of walking away from the responsibilities and duties entrusted to me by the people of this community. Additionally, there is no basis in the law to do so. I have faithfully and fairly carried out those responsibilities and duties for more than two decades and will continue to do so for at least the next four years.

Nixon has also repeatedly insisted that he won't take McCulloch off the case.

Alana Horowitz

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From HuffPost's Dave Jamieson:

Like the rest of the St. Louis community, including their own teachers, Gateway students had emotional discussions about being black in America, about mistrust of the police, about peaceful demonstration and violent protest. They were asked to write down what they were feeling about Ferguson, with the assurance that no sentiments were out of bounds.

Click here to read excerpts from the responses penned by a group of 7th and 8th graders at the school.

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Washington Post reports that Darren Wilson was injured following a scuffle with Michael Brown before he shot and killed him.

A family friend told WaPo that Wilson's eye bone was fractured. Fox News reported similar information earlier this week, citing a police source.

Another source told CNN that these reports are false.

Last week, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told reporters that Wilson was taken to the hospital following the incident, but did not say for what.

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HuffPost's Arthur Delaney reports:

When Attorney General Eric Holder went to Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday, he assured local residents the U.S. Justice Department will swiftly investigate the police killing of an unarmed black teenager on Aug. 9.

In meetings with locals, Holder emphasized how his own past experiences will inform his work overseeing the Justice Department's investigation of Michael Brown's killing. He told students at a community college there that police searched his car when he'd been stopped for speeding on the New Jersey Turnpike.

"I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me," Holder said. "The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the attorney general of the United States."

But Holder's critics point out that this is the same man who was woefully soft on bad cops when he served as Washington, D.C.'s top prosecutor in the mid-1990s.

"Relying on Holder to take action is like sending a guy with a cup of water to put out a wildfire," said Gregory Lattimer, an attorney who has represented family members of people killed by D.C. police, including DeOnte Rawlings, a 14-year-old boy shot in the back of the head by an off-duty officer in 1997.

"[Holder] was part of the problem in D.C., not the solution," Lattimer said. "He says all the right things and then he goes out and defends the status quo."

Read more here.

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