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Independent journalist detained at Ferguson protest

A journalist is arrested outside the Ferguson Police Department on Saturday. (Photo: Alex Wroblewski via Twitter)
A journalist is arrested outside the Ferguson Police Department on Saturday. (Photo: Alex Wroblewski via Twitter)

A digital journalist with an online news startup was detained by police in Missouri on Saturday as he was covering civil demonstrations in the city of Ferguson, according to numerous reports posted on social media.

Gerald “Trey” Yingst, a Washington D.C.-based journalist and founder of the startup, was taken into custody by St. Louis County police officers for allegedly failing to disperse from the scene of civil demonstrations Saturday evening, police said.

In a message posted on the social media website Twitter, the St. Louis County Police Department said Yingst was taken into custody after failing to comply with a police officer’s request to move out of a city street.

“Trey Yingst, (a) reporter from D.C., taken into custody for failure to disperse,” the tweet read. “Was asked to leave street by the commander and refused.”

A number of journalists and eyewitnesses who were on the scene dispute the police’s account leading up to the arrest, asserting Yingst was on a sidewalk outside the Ferguson Police Department building. Various photos and at least one video feed reviewed by The Desk support claims that Yingst was not standing on a city street when he was detained by officers.

At a hastily-arranged press briefing on Saturday, St. Louis County Police spokesperson Lt. Jerry Lore told reporters that he would look into the circumstances surrounding the arrest.

Yingst was released from policy custody early Sunday morning.

In recent days, dozens of journalists have converged on the tiny St. Louis suburb ahead of an impending grand jury decision over whether Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will face charges in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, Jr. in August.

The shooting sparked a wave of racially-tinged protests in the community. Ferguson police were criticized for responding to protests with military-grade equipment, including armored vehicles and riot gear. Dozens of protesters and several journalists were detained by police, prompting the Department of Justice to launch a civil rights review into the law enforcement agency.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).