Student journalist files complaint against Missouri academic who called for 'muscle'

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2015 4:51 PM

By Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) - A student journalist whose video of this week's anti-racism protests at the University of Missouri went viral after a professor called for "some muscle" to get him to back off has filed a police complaint against the academic, Melissa Click.

Student Mark Schierbecker complained twice to campus police about Click, said Major Brian Weimer, a spokesman for the University of Missouri police department.

"I thought about it up until last night when I actually made the call and told the officer that I wanted to go ahead and press charges," Schierbecker, 21, said in an interview with Reuters. "He agreed with me that they would classify it as minor assault."

Police and prosecutors would investigate the claim and decide whether to formally charge Click, Schierbecker said.

In the video he shot, which has been posted online, Click is seen calling on protesters to remove Schierbecker and student photographer Tim Tai from a spot in the school quad where protesters had set up an encampment which they claimed was private space.

"Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here?" Click, a communications professor, yelled on camera. "I need some muscle over here."

When Schierbecker, a soft-spoken senior who is majoring in German and history, points out that the protesters are gathered on public property, she responds sarcastically.

"That's a really good one," Click says. "I'm a communications professor."

In addition to calling protesters over to get Schierbecker to leave, Click also grabbed at his camera, he said. On the video, her hand can be seen blocking the image at least two times.

Schierbecker said he felt threatened by the exchange, which took place after he documented protesters pushing back another student photographer, Tim Tai, by walking slowly into him.

Click did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the university distributed a letter from Click in which she apologizes for her actions and seeks to put them in context.

"My actions were shaped by exasperation with a few spirited reporters," she said. Click has resigned a courtesy appointment with the university's famous journalism school, but remains an assistant professor of communications, specializing in mass media. She was named "Graduate Adviser of the Year" by the university in 2013.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein)