Charge dropped against journalist arrested at St. Louis protest
The trespassing charge has been dropped against journalist Al Neal, who was arrested while covering a Black Lives Matter protest in St. Louis, Missouri, in October 2017, Neal confirmed by email to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in September 2023.
Neal, then the St. Louis bureau chief for progressive online newspaper People’s World, was caught up in a police “kettle” of protesters at the Oct. 3, 2017, demonstration and was held at a St. Louis jail before being released on Oct. 4.
In a response to the Tracker's emailed query, a representative for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said that, to their knowledge, neither the city counselor nor the circuit attorney pursued charges.
The Tracker is listing the date of charges dropped as one year from Neal’s arrest date, when the statute of limitations expired.
Al Neal, the St. Louis bureau chief for progressive online newspaper People’s World, was arrested and jailed for 26 hours while covering protests in St. Louis, Missouri, on Oct. 3, 2017.
That day, protesters in St. Louis shut down Highway 40, marching on the interstate and blocking traffic. The demonstration was a response to the acquittal in September of of Jason Stockley, a white former St. Louis police officer who in 2011 fatally shot Anthony Lamar Smith, a Black man.
Neal filmed part of the protest and posted the video on his Instagram page. The video shows protesters peacefully marching and chanting.
Neal told the Freedom of the Press Foundation that he did not witness any water bottles or other objects being thrown at police officers. He also said that the crowd was quick to comply with police orders, including moving from the street to the sidewalk.
After the group of protesters exited the highway, lines of police officers enclosed them in a “kettle” and then ordered them to sit on the ground. Around 9:30 p.m., police began arresting everyone present at the protest march, including journalists.
Neal said that he was wearing a press badge and standing on the sidewalk with a group of journalists when he was handcuffed. He said that he told a police officer that he was a journalist, and the officer responded, “We don’t care, you’re getting arrested.”
Neal said that he asked the police to cuff his hands in the front instead of behind him, due to his bad shoulder. He said that a police officer refused and told him, “We don’t care, too bad, just wait.”
Neal said that he was transported to the St. Louis city jail, where he was detained in a holding cell for hours. Later that night, he tweeted a photo of the inside of the holding cell.
After being detained for more than a full day, Neal was finally released around 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 4. He is being charged with trespassing, a misdemeanor.