Riot police dispersed protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday night. Among 16 people arrested were two journalists, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post.

Additionally, an Al-Jazeera camera crew was forced to flee tear gas. Patricia Bynes, a Democratic committeewoman in Ferguson township, told “Democracy Now!” on Thursday that police “took down” the crew’s cameras.

Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron responded to Lowery’s arrest in a statement appearing in articles around the Web:

That behavior was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news. … After being placed in a holding cell, he was released with no charges and no explanation. He was denied information about the names and badge numbers of those who arrested him. We are relieved that Wesley is going to be OK. We are appalled by the conduct of police officers involved.

’Democracy Now!’:

Law enforcement officers, who have responded with snipers, armored vehicles and military combat dress, reported they were under attack with thrown bottles and bricks.

The protests began after an as-yet-unnamed officer shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown on Saturday. Brown was days away from beginning college and had no criminal record.

Ferguson is a majority black town of 21,000 people and an “overwhelmingly” white police force, The Guardian reported.

In other developments, accounts emerged Thursday that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon would pull St. Louis County police out of Ferguson. And the U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation to determine whether any civil rights were violated in the case.

President Obama criticized the official response Thursday, saying there was “no excuse for police to use excessive force. … We lost a young man in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances. …He was 18 years old and his family will never hold Michael in their arms again.”

The president also spoke in defense of the journalists arrested. “Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs,” he said.

— Posted by Donald Kaufman

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