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Ear to the Ground

Missouri Policeman Threatens Al-Jazeera Journalist: ‘I’ll Bust Your Head Open’

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Posted on Aug 19, 2014

Al-Jazeera America screen shot

Some police officers in St. Louis County, Mo., have apparently taken longer than others to notice that the whole world is watching them. 

Thursday, Al-Jazeera America producer Aaron Ernst was confronted by two police officers who threatened him while he was covering the Michael Brown shooting story in Kinloch, a neighboring town to Ferguson, Mo.

Ernst and two of his colleagues were told by the officers that they were not allowed to film their story even though they were in public and there was no curfew in effect. When he explained to the police that he and his team needed to shoot footage in that location, one of the officers told Ernst, “I’ll bust your ass. I’ll bust your head right here,” adding that he didn’t care if his threat ended up on film because he would confiscate it.

Here’s a snippet of his story from Al-Jazeera America:

The vast majority of the officers I met around St. Louis were doing the best they could in a difficult and dangerous situation. But the type of officer that we encountered – one who uses his authority to bully the public and press, simply because he is protected by the law and a gun – gives others a bad name. That kind of police impunity seems to be at the root of the anger and protests we witnessed.

In our case, the result was a minor inconvenience. But for many African-Americans living in neighborhoods heavily patrolled by police, the stakes of an encounter with officers who abuse their authority without fear of reprimand have proven to be much more deadly. Until such officers are held to account, the dynamics of the protests in Ferguson and across the country are unlikely to change anytime soon.

The antagonizing officer eventually dropped his act, as well as Ernst’s arm, and the journalists continued on their way. But the incident stuck with Ernst, who concluded in his write-up posted Tuesday: “That kind of police impunity seems to be at the root of the anger and protests we witnessed.”

—Posted by Donald Kaufman

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