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Al Jazeera America producer Aaron Ernst recounts his team's encounter with law enforcement last night near Ferguson, Missouri. And yes, they filmed it:
At this point, the officer approached me and grabbed my wrist.
Officer 1 (holding my arm): Don’t resist. I’ll bust your ass. I’ll bust your head right here.
Me: (to JP) Are you filming this?
Officer 1: Film it! I don’t give a sh*t. Because you’ll go, and I’ll sure confiscate your film for evidence. [...]
[T]he more I thought about it, the more the encounter seemed emblematic, albeit on a vastly smaller and, by comparison, almost insignificant scale, of the dynamics we’re reporting on in Ferguson.
Not insignificant, and not smaller. A three-person media team with a camera rolling nearly had got their heads "busted" for the non-crime of stopping in a neighborhood that the local cops didn't want him in. That's what's happening in Ferguson every night, between the militarized police and fed-up citizens. They're not tear gassing "violent" protesters, they're tear gassing anyone who dares be outside their own home at night. Ferguson has become a sundown town for the press and its own residents.
If that encounter is what happens to people with cameras rolling, you can bet that it would have been much, much worse if the camera wasn't there—and that's what we're seeing, night after night. Tear gas, rubber bullets, and an entire neighborhood being treated like residents are stray dogs. The police aggression seems so routine; all the reporters are reporting the same things, coming from different officers in different jurisdictions and departments. It may have been happening for 10 or 20 or 50 years in these neighborhoods, when the cameras weren't there, but now that the cameras are there, they're showing police forces acting out in a pattern that clearly didn't start a week ago. We wondered at first why the authorities were acting in ways that would obviously generate public rage; it seems clear at this point that the persons orchestrating the police response simply do not care if they generate rage or not.
They don't see it as a mission to restore public safety, they see it as a mission to quell an insurrection against them. And the "rioters," the people in the neighborhoods who are fed up, understand this too. They understand this much better than the reporters do, or the photographers, or anyone else.
Originally posted to Hunter on Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 12:55 PM PDT.