A former Ohio University Post editor who now reports for the Washington Post found himself in the center of a major national news story late last week. On Sunday, he said managed to make it through the ordeal in Ferguson, Missouri, with support from what he termed his "Bobcat family."
"My Bobcat family has been incredible. All of the calls, texts, and other messages have helped me keep my head up" Wesley Lowery, 24, a 2012 graduate of OU's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, said in an email Sunday afternoon.
Lowery was arrested in a Ferguson, Missouri, McDonald's restaurant by police in riot gear on Wednesday, Aug 5. With tensions sky high in Ferguson as a result of racial unrest after the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown protests, violence and looting continued in Ferguson over the weekend.
The E.W. Scripps School joined various other news organizations in condemning the arrests.
Lowery has worked for The Boston Globe and Washington Post since graduating from Ohio University. His Twitter account, which had around 40,000 followers on Thursday Aug 7, ballooned to 102,000 as of 10:30 a.m. Sunday. The former Bobcat served as editor-in-chief of The Post for his senior year in Athens (2011- 2012).
Lowery documented the actions of the arresting officers in the McDonald's (whose names he did not receive) on Twitter and in a story he wrote for the Washington Post on Friday. He included a 51-second video of the police who forced him out of McDonald's and arrested him. Lowery and his supporters in the media and elsewhere have insisted that photographing police officers is a constitutionally protected right.
Lowery credited his journalism experience while at OU for helping him cover this major story.
"Whether it was covering Halloween, or Palmerfest, or any of the other big news that broke while I was on campus, the time that I spent at OU was vital training for what I'm doing now," Lowery said. "At OU, I worked extensively for The Post, often doing breaking news. That training told me how to keep my composure under pressure and how to dig in and get the big story."
He recalled the arrest, which occurred as reporters worked away in the McDonald's, just blocks away from where protests and heavy police reaction had been occurring since Michael Brown's shooting death on Saturday, Aug. 9. Journalists used the restaurant's free WiFi and outlets as charging stations.
"When I was arrested, I was first concerned about not provoking the police officers," Lowery recalled. "When they decided to take me into custody, I tried to turn to face them and said "I'm not resisting, I'm not resisting.
"Most of all, I wanted to avoid getting harmed by these officers, but I also was thinking about how enraged I was. We were doing nothing wrong and certainly not anything that merited us being taken into custody," he said.
Lowery said that since the arrest, "there has been absolutely no police follow-up. We have received no paperwork and have not been given any information or provided with any names of the officers."
Lowery said he intends to keep following the story. In Washington, D.C. today, he plans to head back "to the ground in Ferguson on Monday."
FOLLOWING CRITICISM FROM media pundits including the likes of MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and The Blaze's Dana Loesch, Lowery responded on twitter and television, appearing on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News. In a post on Twitter, Lowery snapped, "You have 'questions' about arrests and scene in the McDonalds, @DLoesch & @JoeNBC? Then call me and ask em. I'm not hard to find."
According to shared accounts, Lowery was slammed against a soda machine while the other reporter, Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post, was "slammed into a door."
When Matt Pearce, a national reporter from the Los Angeles Times, called the Ferguson police Department to find out why Lowery and Reilly had been arrested, Pearce reported that Police Chief Tom Jackson declared "Oh God."