Photojournalist returns from Ferguson, 'embarrassed' by media's actions

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by Lane Kimble

WAUKESHA -- After spending nearly one week in the middle of the Ferguson, Missouri protests, Waukesha photographer Abe Van Dyke hit his breaking point.

"We were just fueling the fire and not making things better, but actually making things worse," Van Dyke said.

The photojournalist went to Missouri Wednesday, August 13,  following the Mike Brown shooting because he felt people  weren't getting the full story from national media.  For a while, Van Dyke felt like he was  doing his job -- until Tuesday night.

"[The media was] More or less surrounding people by three sides and just surrounding people that were injured  to the point where, I know everyone's trying to get the shot, but at some point you have to step back a bit," Van Dyke said.

Van Dyke posted on his Facebook page he was "embarrassed to photograph Ferguson" and decided to leave.  But staying behind were hundreds of media members filling the St. Louis suburb.

"I think it's problematic when there's more media than there are protesters," National Press Photo Association's Mickey Osterreicher told CBS News.  "That always looks a little suspect.  But it is what it is."

CBS News reported some reporters came from as far as Asia to cover the protests.  Van Dyke says the media helped  keep a well-armed police force in check, but he often felt some protesters were more dangerous than police.

"[Most of the police were] just friendly people wanting to get home at the end of the day and not get shot.   That's everyone's goal, but yes, the police force was very militarized and you did have a few  officers that were just over the top."

Now, Van Dyke hopes to pack away his Kevlar vest and gas mask for some time, saying he would  cover the protests again in a heartbeat, but he's happy to be home.

"I did some good with the photos I brought out," Van Dyke said.  "And that was the goal, for both sides."

Mike Brown's funeral is scheduled for Monday morning.  Van Dyke thinks most media members will leave Ferguson after that, unless there's more violence.

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