The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit on Wednesday against law enforcement officials for city of Minneapolis and for state of Minnesota over law enforcement actions against journalists who have been covering protests to the death of George Floyd.
“Over the past week, the Minneapolis Police and the Minnesota State Patrol have tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, shot in the face with rubber bullets, arrested without cause, and threatened journalists at gunpoint, all after these journalists identified themselves and were otherwise clearly engaged in their reporting duties,” the lawsuit states. “These are not isolated incidents.The past week has been marked by an extraordinary escalation of unlawful force deliberately targeting reporters.”
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The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jared Goyette, a freelance journalist who was shot in the face “with less-lethal ballistic ammunition” as he covered demonstrations at the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct on May 27. He was injured in his nose and eye, and after receiving medical treatment, returned to cover the protests, according to the lawsuit.
In the days after the incident, the lawsuit states, Goyette also was told by an officer to “shut up” after identifying himself as a member of the press, and in another instance, an officer shouted at him and a female reporter, “I want to f—ing peg you.”
The lawsuit follows a letter sent to state officials on Tuesday, in which all major networks and more than 100 other news organizations to take steps to stop law enforcement officials from targeting journalists as they cover the story.
The ACLU lawsuit documents more than a dozen other instances where journalists were pepper sprayed, shot with rubber bullets or arrested.
The lawsuit seeks a restraining order and injunction barring law enforcement from “engaging in unconstitutional conduct targeting journalists,” as well as a declaration that the actions violated the Constitution. It also seeks unspecified damages.
On Wednesday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz personally apologized to CNN’s Omar Jimenez, who was arrested live on air with his crew last week as they were covering the protests. But the ACLU’s lawsuit said that the statements against such targeting of journalists “have proven toothless.”
The lawsuit names as defendants the city of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Robert Kroll, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, and Minnesota State Patrol Colonel Matthew Langer. Representatives for the law enforcement agencies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Another high profile incident occurred on Tuesday night, when two reporters for the Associated Press said they were surrounded and shoved by officers of the New York Police Department as they were covering attempts to clear the area as the city’s curfew went into effect. A video of the incident captured the confrontation.
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