MU students recount their arrests in Ferguson

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 | 8:43 p.m. CDT; updated 7:13 a.m. CDT, Thursday, August 21, 2014
Protesters march on Wednesday to the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, the site of the St. Louis County courts and jail, where a grand jury began hearing evidence as it weighs possible charges against a Ferguson police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown. Two MU students spent Monday night in the St. Louis County Jail after being arrested during protests in Ferguson.

COLUMBIA —When MU students Katlyne Ryan and James Pollard decided to go to Ferguson together Sunday night, the plan was to join in a peaceful protest against the Michael Brown shooting and then safely return home.

They were not expecting to be arrested and spend the night in the St. Louis County Jail.

"We were just interested in current events and thought it was an injustice that Michael Brown was killed, so after talking about it for a week we decided to go to Ferguson and peacefully protest, mostly just out of interest," said Pollard, a junior studying biological sciences. Pollard and Ryan have been friends for most of their lives, having grown up together in Kansas City.

On Tuesday morning, St. Louis County police released a list of 78 people who were arrested Sunday and Monday nights. Pollard and Ryan were on that list.

Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol on Tuesday warned individuals against coming to Ferguson to protest at night. Hundreds of protesters have been crowding West Florissant Avenue each night since Aug. 9, resulting in some clashes with police, The Associated Press reports.

"Make your voices heard when you can be seen and you are not the cover for violent agitators. That is my suggestion," Johnson said at an emotional news conference Tuesday morning.

Pollard and Ryan said they left Columbia at 8 p.m. Sunday and arrived at the site of daily protests, West Florissant Avenue, around 11 p.m. While walking around Ferguson, Ryan said residents treated her well and most protests were ending when she arrived.

"A few people were standing around chanting 'hands up don't shoot' when we got there, but most of the organized protests had died down," Pollard said.

Their troubles began, they said, when they joined two African-American men they met while searching for their car. Their search was made more difficult, they said, because police had blocked off an area of West Florissant Avenue before police imposed a midnight curfew.

"An officer stopped us when we were looking for our car and when we told him where we had parked, he just said 'good luck,'" Pollard said. "Later, when we were saying goodbye to the men we met, the police came and arrested one of them."

Pollard said the person arrested was maced by police, and police surrounded that person to block photographs. Pollard said they called him over and arrested him — along with Ryan and one other person for refusal to disperse after the curfew had gone into effect.

"The police asked us if we were press and said that since we were not press, we were under arrest for failing to disperse," Ryan, a junior studying international studies, said. "We were handcuffed and taken to a van. At no time were we read our rights or told where we were being taken."

Ryan said they were taken from a van to a bus with 15 other people. "Three of us in the bus were white; the rest of us were black," she said. "They held us inside the bus for almost two hours, and then they booked us at the county jail."

It was about 2:30 a.m. when they got to the county jail, Ryan said. "No one bothered to respond to the needs of anyone who was arrested," she said.

Ryan, as the only woman in the group, said she was handcuffed to a chair while the others were held in holding cells.

"Because I had mace on my possession, which I always carry on me, an officer accused me of wanting to use it on other officers. When I told the officer I carry it to avoid getting raped, he laughed at me," Ryan said.

"Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment picked us up from the prison at 5:30 a.m. after the curfew ended," Ryan said. The organization said it is providing pro bono legal council for those arrested in Ferguson.

Both Ryan and Pollard said they were released without being given any paperwork or court date. Nor did they have to post bond, they said.

"I would honestly go back (to Ferguson) after all this," Ryan said. "I was surprised by how well the people of Ferguson treated me and how peaceful most of them were. I felt safe with the people, not with the law enforcement."

Pollard said that the situation in Ferguson has been made tense by the police, not the citizens.

"The police were intimidating on purpose," Pollard said. "I saw a lot of nonviolent protests from the people. The only results of violence I saw were people wounded from rubber bullets, tear gas canisters in the street and people who had been maced by the police."

Although police officials have blamed individuals from outside of Ferguson for some of the violence, Missouri NAACP President Mary Ratliff of Columbia encouraged individuals to come to Ferguson and participate in peaceful protests.

"The shooting of Michael Brown is a national issue, not just a Ferguson issue," she said. "There is an attempt to divide us racially and geographically, and we can't let them do that."

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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Corey Parks August 20, 2014 | 9:26 p.m.

How did they possibly not think that would happen? 78 people were arrested the other night for failure to disperse and 74 of them were from anywhere else but Ferguson.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 21, 2014 | 12:52 a.m.

@ Corey:

Academics who study such things have noted that aside from students of military academies the group of students least likely to historically or currently demonstrate for this or that reason come from this nation's public and private campuses which are devoted largely or exclusively to science and technology.

We wonder why that might be.

1-Because they're a group of uncaring bastards? Possibly correct.

2-Because they are typically given plenty of homework, keeping them busy?

3-Because demonstrating for, about or against anything would cut into those few hours a week they have available for drinking beer while complaining to each other about their lack of having any spare time?

4-All of the above.

I am severly torn between 2 and 3 as the most logical and reasonable answers. :) However, number 2 could also explain why here in the United States we always seem to be short of graduate scientists and engineers.

(Report Comment)

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