When the police moved in Wednesday night to disperse demonstrators protesting the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, many reporters found themselves at the center of the chaos.
As sirens wailed and smoke choked the air, journalists reporting on the protest faced crowd-control tactics including high-pitched sirens, clouds of tear gas, and, in at least one case, a bean bag round.
An Al Jazeera America crew was settling up to film from behind a police barricade when a tear gas canister landed near them, and rubber bullets began flying in their direction. In a video from KSDK, you can see one of the crew members swat at the gas before he recoils and flees on foot. The camera operator ditches his equipment and runs, too. Then police move in, place the crew’s lights on the ground and point its camera at the ground.
The tear gas surprised Ash-har Quraishi, chief correspondent for Al Jazeera America, who told the network his crew had been there for an hour without incident before police chased them away.
Al Jazeera America released a statement Thursday morning condemning the incident:
“Al Jazeera America is stunned by this egregious assault on freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story. Thankfully all three crew members are physically fine. We believe that this situation must be investigated along with those involving our colleagues at other media outlets.”
In another instance, a KSDK photojournalist was filming police when they fired a bean bag round at his tripod, according to KSDK footage of the incident.
Michael Calhoun, a journalist for KMOX, published a short video after he recovered from tear gas. On the video, a high-pitched crowd-dispersal siren can be heard.
Several other journalists were also hit with tear gas:
The sting of teargas nothing to play with. Burns the air out of your lungs — Trymaine Lee (@trymainelee) August 14, 2014
Smoke filling the air, people coughing screaming as they run. — Trymaine Lee (@trymainelee) August 14, 2014