Journalists Bilgin Şaşmaz and Trey Yingst, who were both arrested for recording police during two separate protests in Ferguson, will not be charged and St. Louis County will aid their efforts to have information about their arrests removed from their records. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed lawsuits on their behalf and announced today that both cases have settled.
On the evening of Aug. 19, Şaşmaz had been photographing Ray Albers, a former St. Ann police office, who was pointing his weapon at protesters and yelling that he was going to kill them. A St. Louis County Police officer threw Şaşmaz violently to the pavement, handcuffed and arrested him, even though Şaşmaz repeatedly identified himself as a member of the media. Şaşmaz, of Middle Eastern descent, was working alongside many Caucasian reporters and photographers, who were not arrested but documented the interaction. The ACLU of Missouri filed a civil rights lawsuit last November.
Yingst was arrested on Nov. 22 while standing on a sidewalk and recording police efforts to clear the street. His arrest occurred one day after the ACLU of Missouri had, in another case, secured consent judgments against the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the County of St. Louis and the City of Ferguson requiring that the police respect the First Amendment rights of journalists.
“Bilgin and Trey are relieved to put these incidents behind them and to no longer have the possibility of criminal charges hanging over their heads. We are gratified that St. Louis County acknowledges that they should never have been arrested,” explains Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri.
“We hope these settlements indicate that St. Louis County realizes mistakes were made in the arrest of people, including journalists, who were committing no crimes in Ferguson,” says Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The First Amendment protects our right to protest and allows the press to document unfolding events so we can draw our own conclusions about the appropriateness of police conduct.”
Copies of the Yingst settlement and the Şaşmaz settlement can be found on the ACLU of Missouri website.
(New York Times photo)