The ACLU of Minnesota has filed a lawsuit on behalf of journalists who covered the protests over the killing of George Floyd, saying law enforcement deliberately targeted journalists, according to a news release.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota overnight Tuesday, names the city of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, police union head Bob Kroll, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer.
According to the lawsuit, in the week after Floyd's death on May 25, the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol "tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, shot in the face with rubber bullets, arrested without cause, and threatened journalists at gunpoint" after journalists identified themselves while covering the protests in the Twin Cities. In one instance, a journalist was left partially blind.
The lawsuit says police fired ballistic rounds, markers and tear gas without warnings or orders for dispersal.
“Law enforcement is using violence and threats to deter the media from vigorously reporting on demonstrations and the conduct of police in public places,” ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson said in a statement. “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.”
Jared Goyette, a freelance journalist who has contributed to the Minnesota Reformer, is named as the main plaintiff in the lawsuit. He was documenting protesters' efforts to shield and help a black man who was injured when police fired a projectile at his face, the ACLU-MN says.
“Journalists aren’t the only victims,” Goyette said in the release. “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.”
The lawsuit says Minneapolis police have a history of "unconstitutional actions" against journalists and display a "failure" to train, supervise, investigate and discipline officers on journalists' due process violations.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to stop law enforcement from "attacking and targeting journalists, now and in the future," the release said. It also seeks a declaration that police conduct violated the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and damages.
In addition to this lawsuit, the ACLU-MN is looking into legal options to "stop police brutality against protesters and POC organizers," the release said.
BMTN has reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department for comment.