Journalists sue US police for 'false arrest, battery'
Lawsuit alleges freedoms of speech, press violated while covering protests in Ferguson.

Four journalists have sued St. Louis County police for "violations of rights, false arrest, and battery" while covering protests in the city of Ferguson following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen.

The lawsuit filed Monday by Ryan Devereaux, Lukas Hermsmeier, Ansgar Graw and Frank Herrmann, seeks unspecified punitive damages, according to a court document obtained by political news website Politico.com.

The suit alleges that the journalists' First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of the press were violated and that they were subject to "unreasonable searches and seizures" while covering the protests that followed the August 2014 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

The incident ignited fierce street protests and elicited an initially heavy-handed police crackdown on protesters.

In one incident, the suit claims police officers shot at Devereaux and Hermsmeier with rubber bullets while the reporters were walking toward police with their hands in the air and clearly identifying themselves as members of the media.

Officers arrested and charged the pair with "refusal to disperse," says the lawsuit.

Both reporters claim they sustained hand injuries as a result of the plastic handcuffs they were placed in for several hours.

The suit says the other journalists, Graw and Herrmann, were arrested while covering a protest at a gas station.

When Herrmann began to question an officer about a directive to keep moving or be arrested, police officers arrested the two and allegedly tightened the plastic handcuffs "in order to deliberately inflict pain on both journalists."

The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, filed a lawsuit last November against the St. Louis County police on behalf of Anadolu Agency journalist Bilgin Sasmaz, who was injured and detained by police while covering protests following Brown’s death.

The lawsuit claimed that an unidentified Ferguson police officer threw Sasmaz to the ground, violently pushed his face and body into the pavement and handcuffed him, because he was taking photographs of the protests and the subsequent police reaction.

Sasmaz’s equipment, including camera, flash, and lens sustained damage during his arrest and detainment, according to the lawsuit.

In addition to the claims against the police officer, Sasmaz and the ACLU are also seeking judgment against St. Louis County "for its failure to train and supervise" the defendant.

A Missouri grand jury and the Justice Department cleared Wilson in the shooting, but a federal investigation found systematic racial bias in the city's policing tactics.

According to human rights group Amnesty International, police in Ferguson committed human rights abuses while handling the protests.

Ferguson is roughly two-thirds black, but its police force is nearly all white.

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Last Modified: 2015-04-01 08:07:29
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