Students form a perimeter around the #ConcernedStudent1950 tent village and ask media to leave in November. Freelance photographer Tim Tai was firm in stating his First Amendment rights. Communications faculty member Melissa Click asks for 'muscle' near end of video. Courtesy Mark Schierbecker
Students form a perimeter around the #ConcernedStudent1950 tent village and ask media to leave in November. Freelance photographer Tim Tai was firm in stating his First Amendment rights. Communications faculty member Melissa Click asks for 'muscle' near end of video. Courtesy Mark Schierbecker

Local

Prosecutor weighs assault charges for MU professor who wanted to muscle media at protest

By Mará Rose Williams

mdwilliams@kcstar.com

December 01, 2015 04:29 PM

UPDATED December 02, 2015 11:22 PM

A University of Missouri professor caught on video calling for muscle to remove a student photographer who was documenting last month’s anti-racism protest on campus is under review by Columbia’s prosecutor.

Prosecutor Steve Richey on Tuesday was deciding whether MU professor Melissa Click should be prosecuted for an alleged assault on the videographer who captured Click in the Nov. 9 video.

Mark Schierbecker, an MU student and videographer, told The Star that Click grabbed his camera and pushed him while he was making the video. Schierbecker said he met with the prosecutor on Tuesday afternoon. A woman who answered the telephone at the prosecutor’s office late Tuesday afternoon said no decision had been made yet.

Click was one of at least two MU employees trying to prevent members of the media, including a student photographer and a news videographer, from taking pictures of the tent city protesters demonstrating on the quadrangle near Traditions Plaza.

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University of Missouri faculty, students try to block media from covering protests

Students form a perimeter around the #ConcernedStudent1950 tent village and ask media to leave in November. Freelance photographer Tim Tai was firm in stating his First Amendment rights. Communications faculty member Melissa Click asks for 'muscle' near end of video.

Courtesy Mark Schierbecker

University police said Schierbecker filed a report against Click the same day the video was taken. But no arrests had been made in the case.

Schierbecker’s video shows Click, a faculty member in the Department of Communication, yelling at the photographer to back up and not cross a human wall formed by students to block out media. When the photographer did not leave, Click called out, “I need some muscle over here.”

The video went viral the same day those student protests led to the resignation of the university’s two top leaders. Click issued a public apology and resigned from her courtesy appointment in the MU School of Journalism.

Click was not the only university employee in the video attempting to stop the photographer, later identified as photojournalism senior Tim Tai, who repeatedly voiced his First Amendment right to photograph the public display at the public university.

Police said only Schierbecker filed a report, and only Click was named as a suspect.

However, Janna Basler, the assistant director for Greek Life and Leadership at MU, was also seen in the video attempting to restrict the photographer. She was later put on administrative leave.

The Columbia Missourian reported last month that a Title IX complaint had been filed against Basler and Click. University officials said they could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

Schierbecker said he talked with Richey on Tuesday about having asked Click last month about discussing the incident in a public setting.

“It would be an opportunity to turn the conversation away from journalism and journalism ethics and back to what it was in the first place and that was racism,” Schierbecker said.

He said a public talk may still be a possibility.

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc