Antonio French on the front lines of Ferguson
Alderman Antonio French
In the videos, between the flash of spotlights and the haze of teargas, you can make out protesters’ upraised fists, and what appears to be a police officer throwing something (a teargas canister?) A helicopter hovers overhead and protesters, wearing masks to shield their faces, stand arm-in-arm facing a row of spotlights.
“Happening now in #Ferguson” is all St. Louis Alderman Antonio French tweeted alongside most of the more than 30 Vines he posted of Wednesday night’s explosive protests in the St. Louis suburb. The community has been out in full force, outraged by the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, young black teenager who was gunned down by local police just five days ago. French’s footage was retweeted thousands of times before French was allegedly dragged from his car and arrested by Ferguson police. He was just released this morning and is being charged with “unlawful assembly” according to local news sources.
The short videos he captured, live and in real time, might be some of the most harrowing footage of the protests, and French’s arrest—acting as a citizen journalist—might be part of a larger crackdown on the press that also saw Washington Post and Huffington Post reporters arrested last night. The Alderman has been an outspoken supporter of the protesters since Brown’s death last Saturday.
On French’s Twitter feed you can almost see the situation deteriorate. In the earliest shots, he appears to walk among the crowd, capturing the faces and demeanor of his fellow protestors.
A gospel band was performing and religious leaders were in the crowd, he reported, before it grew dark.
Children danced, crying “Justice for Mike Brown.”
By the end of the night, French is shooting his videos from behind a car windshield, and it becomes hard to make out anything behind the smoke. One captures the detonation of an explosive device deployed by police to scatter protestors, which prompted members of the media to compare the scene to Iraq.
In this one you can actually see the device land, as reporters and film crews run for cover.
Reportedly, French was told he was being arrested because he “didn’t listen.” And according to USA Today, protesters were standing in front of the Ferguson Police Department this morning, chanting, “Hell no. We won't go, until you free Antonio.”