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Letter details CNN journalist's arrest experience during Daunte Wright protests

Media outlets sent a letter to officials following a phone conference about the mistreatment of the press over the weekend.

A CNN producer was detained for hours and asked if she spoke English while covering protests in Brooklyn Center last week, according to an April 17 letter, signed by several media outlets, sent to Gov. Tim Walz and other state officials.

CNN producer Carolyn Sung, an Asian American, was arrested April 13 by State Troopers while she was trying to leave the area after officials issued a dispersal order, the letter says. The troopers "grabbed Sung by her backpack and threw her to the ground, zip-tying her hands behind her back."

"Sung did not resist and repeatedly identified herself as a journalist working for CNN and showed her credentials," the letter states. "Despite repeatedly hearing Sung identify herself as a member of the press and tell the troopers that the zip ties were too tight on her wrists, one trooper yelled as Sung, 'Do you speak English?'"

Sung's primary language is English. 

She was then placed in a prisoner-transport bus and brought to jail, where she was "patted down and searched by a female officer who put her hands down Sung's pants and in her bra, fingerprinted, electronically body-scanned and ordered to stop and put on an orange uniform." 

Sung was eventually released after attorneys working on her behalf located her. The process took "more than two hours."

Meanwhile, a male security agent hired by CNN to work with Sung was "briefly detained, but quickly released upon showing his credentials."

The letter was sent to Walz, as well as Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, Col. Matt Langer of Minnesota State Patrol, and Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell, after Walz held an hour-long phone conference with law enforcement officials and media outlets about the mistreatment of the press during the protests following Daunte Wright's April 11 death, according to CNN

Related [April 17]: Photographer reports being maced and punched by police, other journalists detained

Related [April 15]: Daunte Wright protests: Police treatment of residents, media in spotlight

Sung's arrest came a few days before U.S. District Court Judge Wilhelmina Wright granted a restraining order requested by a group of journalists that prohibited law enforcement from including news media in dispersal orders issued to protesters, and also prevents them from using force and chemical munitions on news media, as well as seizing equipment.

Following the order and after the phone conference, the Minnesota State Patrol via Operation Safety Net released a statement on April 17, saying "a free press is foundational to our democracy, and the ability of journalists to cover civil unrest in our communities must be protected and encouraged," adding the State Patrol "has and will continue to respect the rights of the media to cover protest activity."

The State Patrol said it checked and photographed journalists to "expedite" the identification process but said after the restraining order it would no longer photograph journalists or their credentials. 

The statement adds, "MSP is prohibited from arresting, threatening to arrest, or threatening/using physical force against someone we know or have reason to know is a member of the media unless they are suspected of a separate crime (not simply violating a dispersal order, which doesn’t apply to them)."

"While journalists have been detained and released during enforcement actions after providing credentials, no journalists have been arrested," the statement said. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Walz, who has been criticized for the law enforcement response to journalists, has stressed that journalists must be allowed to cover protests and civil unrest without barriers. 

Bring Me The News has reached out to Operation Safety Net, which is coordinating the law enforcement response to protests, for comment on the claims made in the letter. 

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