The allegedly peaceful protestors threatened Gotnews.com photographer Steve Pellegrino the other night in Ferguson and tried to steal his car earlier in the week.
Here’s how Pellegrino describes it:
Earlier in the day I had heard that the protest tent at the Andy Wurm tire dealership was taken down. This has been a fixture and home base for the protesters since the beginning of the protests in August. Andy Wurm, the owner, has given them permission to occupy a small section of his parking lot, but the rumor was his business is down 70%. Good cause or not, he has responsibilities to his family and his employees who have had to take pay cuts (according to a TV news story).
In the morning I went over there and spoke to a some very nice protesters about the situation. They were hoping they could set up in the same lot as the Subway store as the Subway folks have been very nice to them. They don’t own the building (which houses other businesses) or the lot, so it wasn’t their decision.
I arrived around 7:30pm and parked in the Subway restaurant lot. I’ve met the owner previously and the owner’s son is a pro photographer. I saw the tent set up and also the same protesters I’d spoken to earlier. We talked for about 10 minutes and then I asked them about a tweet that senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal had written, warning everyone in St. Louis to stay out of Ferguson tonight and if they knew anything about it. I was concerned for my safety because if something bad was going to happen, I wanted a little warning. I had printed several copies of the tweet because I figured one or two would want it and would ask around. As it turned out one of the first ladies I spoke with kept the copy I handed her and asked around. (I think she’s deleted the tweet because I couldn’t find it)
I went across the street to stand in front of the police department and get the settings on my camera set and do a few test shots. It was a very, very slow night. No police out and maybe 25 protesters. All TV media was parked in the police parking lot. There were maybe half a dozen photojournalists. I was leaning against a brick post trying to get a wi-fi signal for my phone. I’m a fairly tech-savvy guy, but almost clueless when it comes to mobile technology. I hardly use it. I’ve texted maybe 10 times in my life. I don’t need to be connected 24/7 (this will be important in a moment).
After I got a wi-fi signal I was using the downtime to check Twitter and Instagram. At this point I’d been there for about 45 minutes and was thinking of heading home because it was obvious nothing was going to happen and I needed to be up at 4:30am to get ready to shoot a project this morning. I was in the middle of composing this tweet:
Very quiet night in #Ferguson in front of the police department. About 30 quiet protesters. May be an early night.
At that point my plan was to send out that tweet, head back across the street to Subway and grab a quick bite to eat, wait another 30 minutes before heading home. However before I could type “May be an early night.” Several guys walked up to me and asked me about the senator’s tweet I printed out. They were recording it with their phone, which was fine with me. I think there were four of them who sort of surrounded me. I was up against a brick post, part of the Ferguson Hall of Fame Wall. Honestly I don’t remember the whole conversation. I told them I thought the tweet was a little concerning and not a responsible thing for a state senator to do. If she knew something than she should inform authorities.
They twisted it around though because they were making it out like I was passing these things around to get people nervous. I only handed one out and asked a couple of people if they knew anything about it. They didn’t and that was the end of it in my mind. But these guys came back at me saying I had made a long comment about it. Apparently this paper got passed around and the story changed by the time it came back to me.
One guy asked why didn’t I just have it on my phone and show people instead of printing it out. I told him that I know if I would have an internet connection out here and he looked at me like I was crazy. I’m sure in their 24/7 connected minds, this was an absurd thing to hear, but as I mentioned I’m not mobile savvy and don’t pay for unlimited anything on my phone because I’ll never use it.
They asked who I was with, I showed them the credential hanging around my neck and they went away for a moment to check the site. They went away and came back a couple of times, each time asking a question. The last couple of questions were about you and the article about Umar Lee. I didn’t have anything to say about the article because I hadn’t read it, which again they found hard to understand.
That was the end of it. I finished composing my tweet and called my wife to let her know I was going to go to Subway and I’d probably be home within a half hour. The moment I was on the phone, one of the guys got very near me and started to video me on the phone. No matter where I am on the phone, I pace. Since I was a teen, I can’t sit still and talk on the phone. So I’m walking up and down the sidewalk pacing, talking to my wife about my plans and this idiot is following me. That’s when I found out these guys were the Argus “radio” guys who stream live video of the protests. My wife had just seen me because she was watching and told me how they twisted everything. I didn’t care because it’s their right to do so.
But now this guy is following me and as I’m crossing the street it looks like they may have told several of the protesters that I work for the guy who went to court to get Mike Brown’s records. Someone asked the guy following me why I was being videoed and I think he told them about GotNews.
Now here’s the second incident:
After crossing the street to go to Subway I started to walk into the parking lot and a young black guy stops me and asks me either why I was going that way or if my car was there. I told him my car was there. He said “proceed to your car”. I thought that was an odd statement, like I needed him permission. He was standing next to a very nice Harley motorcycle and I’m getting ready to work on a Harley project so I said that was a really nice bike and if it was his. Every time I ask a Harley rider about their bikes, the tough facade comes down and they want to talk about it. This guy repeated what he said “proceed to your car.” I asked him if he was trying to intimidate me, or something like that and he said he was security, guarding the lot and again to proceed to my car.
Now I have the guy following me with the camera, the black guy following me, so I figured it was time to get out and skip the Subway shop. Did they force me out? No, because I was getting ready to leave anyway, but they screwed Subway out of a sale.
As I was getting into my car I shot a couple of pics of the guy with the cam, who I guess is Rebelutionary_Z on Twitter. I told him to make sure he gets the punch hole under my lock that the peaceful protesters made in an attempt to steal my car a few nights ago. He turned to a group of black girls and said “See, this is the kind of attitude that we’re fighting against” or something similar to that.