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Lawyers Arrested Videotaping Protests in Ferguson, Missouri

Ferguson Shooting Case Going to Grand Jury

Summary: Lawyers who have traveled to Ferguson, Missouri to help protesters with their case, have been taken into custody multiple times this past week. 

King Downing, an attorney from New York, was walking the streets of Ferguson, Missouri this week. He had a video camera with him to document the interactions between protesters and police officers, according to The National Law Journal.

The protests in Ferguson stem from the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer, identified as Darren Wilson. Initial reports from the incident claim that Brown was unarmed and allegedly had his arms raised in the air when the officer shot him.

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Despite these reports, the officer, and other witnesses, have claimed that Brown charged Wilson. Days after the shooting, Brown was identified as a suspect in a strong-arm robbery of a store. Wilson stopped Brown for walking in the street, not the robbery. He learned of the store robbery during the stop.

Lawyers from around the country have been going to Ferguson to record protests, which have been both violent and peaceful since Brown’s death. They are there to record the interactions between the public and the police.

“We’ve really been overwhelmed by attorneys from across the country who want to help out,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. “That feels good.”

Max Suchan is a law student who works as a National Lawyers Guild legal observer. He was in Ferguson this week. He was arrested while observing others protest. He is a student at DePaul University College of Law.

Rothert added, “Most mass demonstrations, we know when they’re going to end. They are a specific event that has a beginning and an end. What makes this unusual is we don’t know—there’s no obvious end in sight. Occupy was like that.”

A couple of lawsuits were filed on August 14 by the American Civil Liberties Union in Missouri federal district court. It challenges police interference with the public recording police-protester interactions.

The second lawsuit filed by the ACLU was submitted on August 18 in the same court. It dealt with police officers prohibiting people from standing for more than a period of five seconds in a public place. The ACLU’s request for a temporary restraining order was denied by a judge.

“Someday we may want to deconstruct what happened, especially how, I think, some civil liberties were made the enemy of public safety, perhaps unnecessarily,” Rothert said.

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