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.