- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Journalists filed a class-action lawsuit in Minneapolis after dozens of reporters and photographers were arrested, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets while covering the riots across the country following a white police officer killing George Floyd, a black man, on Memorial Day.

Jared Goyette, a freelance reporter who was under contract by a national publication to cover the demonstrations in Minneapolis, had notified police he was a member of the press but was shot in the face with a rubber bullet. He had to seek medical attention.

Mr. Goyette is the named plaintiff in the class action filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on Wednesday.

“The press is under assault in our city,” the lawsuit said. “These are not isolated incidents. The past week has been marked by an extraordinary escalation of unlawful force deliberately targeting reporters.”

The 42-page complaint details more than a dozen reporters who had conflicts with law enforcement while trying to cover the protests, which turned destructive and violent at night throughout the past week.

The lawsuit noted the arrest of CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, who was led away on national television. Mr. Jimenez told the state patrol to “put us back where you want us, we are getting out of your way,” according to court papers. He was released only after CNN President Jeff Zucker spoke to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

Tannen Maury, a photojournalist working for the European Press Photo Agency, was arrested and charged with a curfew violation despite media being exempt from the curfew orders.

Los Angeles Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Carolyn Cole, a photographer, were held against a wall and tear-gassed. Both were wearing press credentials.

“Actions like this make protesters, people trying to advocate for change, more vulnerable because journalists provide a witness and police are aware of that,” Mr. Goyette said. “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.”

The ACLU of Minnesota said in the lawsuit that the Minneapolis police have violated constitutional rights, including the freedom of the press.

They are seeking an injunction preventing the city and police from targeting reporters.

“The power of the people is rooted in the ability of the free press to investigate and report news, especially at a time like this when police have brutally murdered one of our community members,” said Teresa Nelson, legal director for the ACLU of Minnesota. “Police are using violence and threats to undermine that power, and we cannot let that happen. Public transparency is absolutely necessary for police accountability.”

The city of Minneapolis and the chief of police are named defendants in the suit.

Erik Nilsson, Minneapolis city attorney, said they respect the constitutional rights of everyone, including protesters and reporters.

“We will review the allegations and take them seriously. We continue to support the First Amendment rights of everyone in Minneapolis,” Mr. Nilsson said in a statement to The Washington Times responding to the lawsuit.

The actions detailed in the lawsuit are similar to other incidents across the country.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Robert Bumsted, a video-journalist, and Maye-E Wong, a photographer, were wearing AP identification while documenting the protests in lower Manhattan, but they were surrounded by at least half a dozen officers and forced to leave.

NYPD officials said they would “review this as soon as possible,” the AP reported.

Violence against reporters has not only been attributed to officers, but also some of the protesters.

A TV crew was pepper-sprayed in Louisville, Kentucky, and a television reporter in South Carolina was hit in the head by a rock.

A Fox News reporter and his cameraman were chased out of a protest near the White House and had their equipment smashed.

Demonstrators also broke windows and tagged the CNN headquarters in Atlanta with graffiti.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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