For Immediate Release: August 14, 2014
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
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Police Obligation to Maintain Order Does Not Excuse Interference with Peaceful Protest, Free Press
We are deeply concerned about the response of police to the peaceful demonstrations taking place in Ferguson, MO, and its arrest of journalists on the scene. The Center for Inquiry strongly supports the right to peaceful free expression in whatever form it takes, including assembly and protest. We also support the right of journalists to report on events without government interference.
Given that the demonstrations in Ferguson have thus far been largely peaceful, available evidence indicates that the severity of the police department’s actions – which includes a massive display of military-grade weaponry, the detention of journalists without charge, and damage to people’s homes – outweighs any threat posed by protesters. Free expression, a fundamental human right, must of course be exercised peacefully, and the police have an obligation to maintain public order, but public order must be maintained in a manner that is proportional and respectful of citizens’ rights to assemble and express themselves in their own community, and allows the press to inform the public of what transpires. The police department’s tactics to this point appear only to have exacerbated tensions rather than quell them.
We are encouraged that Gov. Jay Nixon is addressing the crisis today, and by early reports that changes as to who will be policing the area are forthcoming. We urge all parties to work actively to find a peaceful solution that protects the safety and basic rights of Ferguson’s citizens to peacefully speak their minds without threat of violence, and the right of journalists to fulfill their duty to report the facts of the events as they unfold without fear of physical violence or detention.