Tensions are high in Minnesota, as two days of rioting saw the 3rd district police station set on fire, and countless other businesses looted or set on fire as well. That is no excuse, for the egregious conduct orchestrated by members of the Minnesota State Patrol who arrested a CNN crew that was doing nothing wrong. The reporter Omar Jiimenez is a minority.
The debacle started just after 5:30 AM May 29 2020 when the crew were standing in the street doing a live stand up with a phalanx of riot police in the background. Within a few seconds, you can see a group of troopers storm the area and forcefully take a woman into custody, which was filmed by the crew. As they state patrol surrounded the crew, they told them they were filming live. That remark resulted in a trooper taking control of expensive sound equipment, and as Jimenez is trying to give his report. He is showing press credentials to the Lt. who does not care.
At the same time, the very expensive sound equipment is dropped to the ground and Jimenez was cuffed and hauled away. The rest of the crew suffered the same fate, leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars of delicate equipment in the hands and custody of untrained troopers. For any arrest to be valid, a clear and lawful order must be given to the crew and they must be given reasonable time to comply. This was not done. Instead, tactics used by Nazi storm troopers were used. The CNN crew had no idea where to go. However, the cameras were rolling which showed the police were clueless as to how to safely operate and secure the equipment.As the CNN crew asked where they could report from they were told they were being arrested.
The crew was released within one hour. As the arrest played out on live television, the Governor got involved and was not happy with what he saw. The State Patrol issued a statement that read, they released the crew once they discovered they were journalists. That statement means that those Troopers were too stupid to know that a $200,000 broadcast camera and $1,000,000,.00 broadcast truck parked nearby belonged to journalists, or they simply did not care.
This kind of tactic is called “catch and release”. It is illegal and breeds distrust of police. In a statement by the National Press Photographers Association, issued a statement strongly condemning the arrest of the crew. They alluded to the possibility of a lawsuit filed by the network.
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has reviewed the video from the arrest of a CNN crew, on Friday morning, May 29, 2020, while reporting on the protests in Minneapolis. We condemn in the strongest terms the actions by the Minnesota State Patrol (MSP) in using the highly suspect “catch & release” tactic to stop journalists from reporting on matters of public concern. Their actions are not only troubling but illegal. The NPPA has spent years working with and training law enforcement and journalists regarding the rights and limitations to photograph and record police performing their official duties in a public place. The actions this morning by MSP go against all those widely accepted policies and guidelines. In light of the in-custody death of George Floyd on Monday, May 25, 2020, that led to these protests, the fact that the MSP arrested a journalist of color is all the more disturbing.
Despite its mission statement as ”a progressive law enforcement agency providing superior service to Minnesota’s residents, visitors, and allied agencies,” the MSP has fallen severely short of its promise to “strive for excellence in all that we do through the development of forward-thinking leadership, technology, innovation, and a quality workforce.”
It would be very wise for them to follow the pertinent guidelines provided by the Oakland Police Department for the media covering demonstrations:
• The media has a right to cover protests from any location the public is normally allowed.
• Leave the media alone and focus on protesters and those committing criminal acts.
• When in doubt, “Let the media film.”
Although MSP self-servingly stated they released the CNN crew “once they were confirmed to be members of the media,” it should have been obvious to anyone with the most basic training that these were journalists. It should also be noted that at the time of the arrest there was no direct interaction between police and protestors that needed to be immediately addressed by anything more than providing the journalists with directions as to where they should be. That request was made calmly and repeatedly by the CNN reporter and other members of the crew.
It is unfortunate that once again the police trample on the First Amendment, viewers are denied the ability to be informed, and taxpayers will bear the burden of paying for these unconstitutional acts.
NPPA stands ready to work with law enforcement to provide training to avoid these chilling incidents from recurring.