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ACLU-MN files class action lawsuit on behalf of journalists targeted by police while covering protests

Police in riot gear walk through a cloud of blue smoke as they advance on protesters near the Minneapolis 5th Precinct, Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Minneapolis. Photo: AP Photo/John Minchillo. Police in riot gear walk through a cloud of blue smoke as they advance on protesters near the Minneapolis 5th Precinct, Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Minneapolis.

Kyle Brown
Updated: June 03, 2020 09:44 AM
Created: June 03, 2020 09:29 AM

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of journalists whom it claims were targeted by law enforcement officers while covering protests over the police-involved killing of George Floyd.

According to a news release, the ACLU-MN alleges that Minneapolis police officers and Minnesota State Patrol troopers have "engaged in an extraordinary escalation of unlawful force deliberately targeting journalists." The organization cites the use of tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets — including one case in which an officer shot a photojournalist in the face with a rubber bullet, leaving her partially blinded.

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The lawsuit also cites arrests without cause. Minnesota State troopers made national headlines after they arrested CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and two crew members on live television. They were later released, and Gov. Tim Walz later apologized.

Tear gas has been fired at multiple KSTP journalists covering the protests as well. Investigative reporter Ryan Raiche documented his experience on Twitter: 

"We kept saying we’re media. Police tear gassed and pepper sprayed the entire group. Everyone ran. It was insane. It happened so fast," Raiche said.

The lawsuit alleges law enforcement officers violated journalists' Constitutional rights — citing the First, Fourth and Fourteenth amendments. It also seeks a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to prevent law enforcement from using force against journalists.

“Law enforcement is using violence and threats to deter the media from vigorously reporting on demonstrations and the conduct of police in public places,” said ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson. “We depend on a free press to hold the police and government accountable for its actions, especially at a time like this when police have brutally murdered one of our community members, and we must ensure that justice is done.

"Our community, especially people of color, already have a hard time trusting police and government. Targeting journalists erodes that public trust even further.”

Several defendants were listed in the lawsuit: the City of Minneapolis; Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo; Lt. Bob Kroll, head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis; Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington; and Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matthew Langer.

The lead plaintiff, Jared Goyette, alleges that police fired a projectile at his face while he was documenting the protests in Minneapolis.

“Journalists aren’t the only victims,” Goyette said. “Actions like this make protesters, people trying to advocate for change, more vulnerable because journalists provide a witness and police are aware of that. Without journalists there, police or other people in power can feel a sense of impunity that no one will see what’s happening anyway. Everyone needs to know people are watching.”


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