The Unlikely Student Behind Ferguson’s Most Important Livestream
How a rookie reporter brought the Mike Brown protests to the world
If you followed the clashes between police and protesters this weekend in Ferguson, Missouri, chances are you’ve seen Mustafa Hussein’s livestream. While cable news has done its best to keep up with the nightly shows of police militarization, the story has played out in real time, on Twitter feeds and shaky cams, prompting people to call it one of the first, true “post-television news stories.”
Staying current on the situation in Ferguson has meant keeping two browser windows open, one for Tim Pool’s Vice livestream, and one for Hussein’s Argus Radio broadcast. Both have proved remarkably successful at placing themselves where other journalists are not, evading the behind-the-lines press-pen corral, where police have done their best to confine reporters over the last several nights, away from protestors and tear gas. Millions have tuned in directly to the livestreams, and aside from a few exciting moments on cable TV (including police threatening to mace MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes), even a lot of the mainstream coverage relied on footage from Pool and Hussein.
So it may come as a surprise that Wednesday night in Ferguson was Hussein’s first night in the role of reporter. The Master’s candidate at the University of St. Louis-Missouri studies political science, with a focus on constitutional law. He also runs a local urban radio station with four friends, all volunteers. Recently, they purchased video equipment, so they could start livestreaming concerts. On Wednesday, Hussein decided to test out the equipment in Ferguson, telling the Huffington Post he was worried local affiliates might not cover the protests through the night, and that “there is a longstanding history in this country of the officers themselves being uneducated on what the constitutional rights of civilians are.” He ended up capturing some of the most visceral footage of law enforcement’s initial use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Sunday night, Hussein was at it again, embedded on West Florissant Avenue, where riot police started firing on civilians hours before the midnight curfew started. As officers in armored trucks continued to advance down the street, they pulled Hussein aside, at one point pointing a gun at his face and yelling, “Get the fuck out of here. You get that light off, or you’re getting shot with this.”
Hussein went unharmed, though the same can’t be said of his camera. Wednesday night, he was hit by what he believes to be a tear gas canister, damaging the video equipment. Argus Radio is now accepting donations for a replacement, to “keep the people informed about what is happening on the front line in Ferguson.”