November 23, 2014
ST. LOUIS – The ACLU of Missouri is reviewing information regarding the Nov. 22 arrest of Trey Yingst, a News2Share reporter and producer, in Ferguson, Missouri. According to the St. Louis County Police Department, Mr. Yingst was arrested for allegedly standing in the street and failing to disperse after being asked by law enforcement to do so. However, several eye-witness accounts and video recordings of the incident suggest that Mr. Yingst was standing on the sidewalk exercising his First Amendment right to record police at the time of his arrest and it is unclear what legal authority police officers would have had to order him to disperse.
“We are deeply troubled that the First Amendment rights of the media are still being violated in spite of the recent court order we secured against such action by the County of St. Louis,” said Jeffrey Mittman, ACLU of Missouri executive director. “We will continue to monitor the situation and if necessary swiftly pursue aggressive action to ensure that unlawful interference with the press comes to an end.”
“Police are not allowed to threaten to arrest or order individuals to move who are peaceably standing, marching or assembling on public sidewalks in Ferguson. Missouri law enforcement may only ask those assembled on the street or sidewalk to disperse if there are six or more people gathered for an unlawful purpose or if a riot is taking place,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Police have an obligation to protect First Amendment rights, not violate them.”
In response to the repeated attacks on protestors’ and the media’s First Amendment rights since August, the ACLU of Missouri filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in Hussein v. County of Saint Louis, et al., on Friday, Nov. 14. On Nov. 21 United States District Judge John A. Ross granted three court orders against the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the County of St. Louis and the City of Ferguson. In a related case, Abdullah v. County of St. Louis, et al., a federal court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting law enforcement from arresting those standing on sidewalks. Related documents and more information for both cases are on the ACLU of Missouri website.
The ACLU of Missouri is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that defends and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Missourians guaranteed under the United States and Missouri Constitutions, through its litigation, legislative and public education programs. It is an affiliate of the national ACLU.