Compiled by the Silha Center
*Updated June 3, 2020
In the days following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 while in the custody of Minneapolis Police officers, peaceful and violent protests erupted in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Numerous local, national and international journalists provided live coverage of the protests as they took place. Despite being exempted from curfew requirements, reporters faced arrest, detention, and physical assault by Minneapolis Police and other local police, Minnesota State Patrol troopers, and the National Guard.
At multiple news conferences, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has repudiated these actions. For example, on May 31, Gov. Walz said during a morning news conference: “I want to once again extend my deepest apologies to the journalists who were once again in the middle of this situation, were inadvertently but nevertheless detained. To them personally, and to the news organizations and to journalists everywhere, it is unacceptable. I said when it happened the other day, when I failed you, I have to do better. I continue to need to do and send that message. I take full responsibility for that and won't equivocate no matter how difficult the environment is. I would just ask folks to know that in restoring public order and adhering to democratic principles, and having a history as governor of welcoming that openness, it is certainly not our intention nor is it helpful to restoring public order to have that happen. So you can rest assured that we will back again at what happened, try and make those changes. I ask you again that we will continue to dialogue with the media. It’s critically important that we do that. It’s critically important that I am able to maintain or restore their trust in the necessity of them being out there to tell the story.”
The Silha Center is maintaining a running list of these incidents.
May 26 and May 27:
According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, on May 27, freelance journalist Jared Goyette was struck in the eye by an unknown object and tear gassed by police. Dymanh Chhoun, a photojournalist at WCCO, the Twin Cities’ CBS affiliate, was also hit with tear gas.
Minnesota Reformer reporter Ricardo Lopez tweeted around 11 p.m. that he was “physically yanked away” by a police officer who wanted the media to move away from the advancing police line. Reformer reporter Max Nesterak tweeted shortly after that he was struck in the chest by a rubber bullet.
On May 26, Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter and University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism alumnus Andy Mannix tweeted that he had been “shot . . . in the thigh” by a rubber bullet, likely by police officers. Mannix included a video in a subsequent tweet of the “mayhem scene” where he was hit by the rubber bullet. In the video, protesters can be seen choking on tear gas released by police near the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) Third Precinct police station. The full video is available online.
Night of May 28/May 29:
On May 29, 2020, CNN reported that as correspondent Omar Jimenez, his producer Bill Kirkos, and photojournalist Leonel Mendez were arrested by Minnesota State Patrol officers while conducting a live report of the protests in south Minneapolis stemming from the killing of George Floyd. The arrests prompted significant criticism from observers, including the Silha Center for the Study of Ethics and Media Law.
In a May 29 opinion piece for the Des Moines Register, reporter Tyler J. Davis said that the previous day he was “hit with chemical irritants” while covering the protests in St. Paul, Minn. Davis said that “officers sprayed canisters in every direction telling people to move toward the north sidewalk or keep moving west. The crowd became angrier, telling officers the nonlethal weapons were unnecessary and excessive. Behind the barricades, flash-bang devices were thrown into the avenue along with smoke grenades.” Davis wrote that when he “pulled out [his] camera to record the incident,” an officer “redirected his chemical spray” toward Davis. The full opinion piece is available online.
Night of May 29/May 30:
On May 30, Samara Freemark, the senior producer of “In the Dark,” an investigative podcast by APM Reports, tweeted at approximately 1 a.m. that “an officer ran up and pointed some kind of weapon (tear gas? Projectile?)” at herself, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) reporter Matt Sepic, “In the Dark” lead reporter Madeleine Baran, and APM Reports reporter Parker Yesko.
Baran similarly tweeted that an MPD officer “pointed a weapon at [hers and Freemark’s] heads, while we were standing on Nicollet and 32nd covering the protests.” Baran added that she “yelled that [she is] a journalist,” but that the officer “did not lower his weapon,” prompting the journalists to run away from the scene and “call it a night.”
Unicorn Riot, a nonprofit media organization dedicated to “exposing root causes of dynamic social and environmental issues,” tweeted that police were “no longer respecting freedom of press in Minneapolis,” explaining that “SWAT just forced our reporting team into a business and slammed the door.”
In a series of tweets on May 30, freelance photojournalist Linda Tirado said that she permanently lost vision in one eye after she was hit with a rubber bullet while covering the protests in Minneapolis.
At 9:27 a.m. on May 30, freelance journalist Conor Fortune tweeted a video showing police tackle an independent journalist from Minnesota News Now “even after appearing to comply with [a] police order to move.” Video of the incident is available online.
Night of May 30/May 31 (Saturday night):
On May 30, Tom Aviles, a veteran photographer at WCCO, the Twin Cities’ CBS affiliate, was arrested by the Minnesota State Patrol despite identifying himself and his producer as members of the local news media.
Ryan Raiche, an investigative reporter at KSTP-TV, the Twin Cities’ ABC affiliate, similarly said in a tweet that he, his photographer, and producer “were with a group of media and thought we were in a safe spot. We kept saying we’re media. Police tear gassed and pepper sprayed the entire group. Everyone ran. It was insane. It happened so fast.” Early in the morning on May 31, KSTP reported that a KSTP reporter, photographer, and producer “were caught in the middle of chemical irritants being used to disperse protesters by the National Guard and local law enforcement.” KSTP said that the crew, while attempting to retreat, “was sprayed by chemical irritant and pepper spray.” In a June 2 tweet, NBC News staff producer Ed Ou wrote that he, producer, director, and cinematographer Mike Shum, and photojournalist Peter Van Agtmael were among the other journalists in the area hit with “peppery spray, concussion grenades, batons, and tear gas by the Minnesota state patrol.” Video of the encounters are available.
At 8:53 p.m., Dawn Mitchell, a sports anchor at FOX 9 in Minneapolis, tweeted that although “[m]edia [were] allowed in areas [of] downtown” Minneapolis and that FOX 9 reporter Christina Palladino and her crew “identified themselves as media,” they “were still shot at twice by MPD,” with the rubber bullets hitting the windshield of their vehicle.
At 8:56 p.m., Los Angeles Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske posted a video on Twitter in which she stated that although she and approximately 12 additional television and print journalists identified themselves as members of the news media, the Minnesota State Patrol “fired tear gas canisters . . . at point blank range.” She continued, “I got hit in the leg.. . . We asked them ‘where do we go? Where do we go? They did not tell us where to go, they just fired on us.” The full video is available online.
In a May 31 article describing what took place, Hennessy-Fisk also wrote that her photographer colleague Carolyn Cole was hit in the face with a rubber bullet. She added, “I didn’t realize it, but I was bleeding from several wounds to my leg.. . . Blood covered the face mask of a reporter next to me, who was so stunned someone had to tell him he was hurt.” Cole later wrote that her left cornea was damaged, which she attributed to pepper spray.
At approximately 8 p.m. on May 30, NBC News social media strategist Micah Grimes tweeted that the Minnesota State Patrol or National Guard “aimed and intentionally shot me in side with canister with green powder.” Grimes continued, “I turned back to him, he taunted me like would shoot me again, twice. Clear cheap shot. Video at the end. I’m fine. Had my media badge clearly on chest.” The video is available online.
At 9:01 p.m., freelance journalist Timothy Burke tweeted a CNN video showing an unidentified cameraperson with a “Press” written on his helmet get hit by a projectile fired by police as he ran to safety. The video is available online.
CBS News correspondent Michael George tweeted that “Minneapolis police fired on our CBS News crew with rubber bullets” although the crew was “wearing credentials and had cameras out.” George added, “Our sound engineer was hit in the arm.”
At 11:11 p.m. on May 30, Vice News correspondent Michael Anthony Adams tweeted that police “raided the gas station” where he and other journalists “were sheltering at.” He continued, “After shouting press multiple times and raising my press card in the air, I was thrown to the ground. Then another cop came up and peppered sprayed me in the face while I was being held down.” Adams included a video of the incident in his tweet, which is available online.
At 11:18 p.m., Star Tribune reporter Chao Xiong tweeted that “[o]fficers of some type just shot some type of rounds (rubber bullets)” at the vehicle in which he and Star Tribune reporter Ryan Faircloth, an alumnus of the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, were “driving near Lake St.” Xiong added, “No warning given[.]”
Star Tribune reporter Chris Serres was also hit by a rubber bullet, according to a tweet he sent earlier in the evening. In a May 31 tweet, Serres elaborated on what took place, writing, “I was twice ordered at gunpoint by Minneapolis police to hit the ground, warned that if I moved ‘an inch’ I’d be shot. This after being teargassed and hit in groin area by rubber bullet. Waiving [sic] a Star Tribune press badge made no difference.”
Just after midnight on May 31, Faircloth tweeted that police or members of the Minnesota National Guard “just blew my passenger window out with live rounds as I tried to turn left and get out of the area.” He said that it resulted in the “glass shattering into [his] face and body.” Faircloth added, “I’m bleeding from the side of my face and down my left arm.. . . It isn’t horrible but I am shook up. The window completely shattered and smoke filled the car.” Faircloth later clarified in a tweet that he believed his vehicle was hit by rubber bullets.
Xiong also tweeted early in the morning on May 31 that he was with Star Tribune reporter Elizabeth Sawyer, as well as “2 Kurdish journalists and 1 Japanese journalist near 5th precinct” when officers “told us to go home.” Xiong continued, “When we said we were press one [officer] said ‘Your cards are bullshit,” referring to their press credentials.
Similarly, Star Tribune reporter Mara Klecker tweeted at 12:25 a.m. that “St. Paul Police also told media to go home tonight. I showed my press badge and was told ‘doesn’t matter.’”
The following morning, the St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) sent a message to Klecker on Twitter, which read, “Hi Mara. We saw your tweet about the police officer you say told you to go home. That doesn't sound like something we see from an SPPD officer because we work hard to protect freedom of the press. But in the throes of such a dynamic situation, it's possible one of our officers had a momentary lapse. It also may be possible that the officer was from another agency. There were a lot of agencies involved last night. Either way, we'd love to learn more so we can see if there's a gap in our training or at the very least remind him about our values and protocols. Would you mind giving one of our PIOs a call this week?”
At 12:57 a.m. on May 31, MSNBC host Ali Velshi tweeted a video depicting advancing police shoot tear gas towards protestors, himself, and his MSNBC crew. The full video is available online.
At 1:30 a.m., Reuters producer Julio-César Chávez tweeted that he was shot in the arm and neck “with rubber bullets in the middle of covering the Minneapolis protests.” He added, “My security advisor was shot in the face; his gas mask protected him. A full account of the incident is available online.
At 6:23 a.m., Simon Moya-Smith, a contributing writer for NBC news, alleged in a tweet that the previous night he “was pepper-sprayed then arrested . . . by Minneapolis PD even after identifying myself as a reporter MULTIPLE times.” Moya-Smith said that as he was lying on the ground, an officer checked his press credential while another told him to “Roll on your side, Mr. Journalist.” A third officer then “loaded” Moya-Smith into a police car, when he again saw his “press badge and shrug[ged].”
At 10:57 a.m., Star Tribune staff photographer Anthony Soufflé tweeted his thanks to several individuals who “came to my and several other journalists aid when we were tear gassed yesterday.” He added, “I’m incredibly thankful for them.”
At 8:54 p.m. on May 30, reporter Andrew Buncombe of the Independent in the United Kingdom (UK) tweeted that the “[i]nternational media [is] being targeted with tear gas [and] non-lethal rounds.”
Around the same time, Radio-Canada journalist Philippe Leblanc tweeted a video showing police shove him as police arrived at the scene of a protest in a Minneapolis transit bus. The full video is available online.
Also on May 30, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) senior correspondent Susan Ormiston reported the same night that she was struck in the shoulder with a rubber bullet in Minneapolis.
According to Bellingcat, an independent investigative journalism website, a Swedish and a Norwegian journalist were also targeted by rubber bullets overnight on May 30. An Australian News crew was also detained, handcuffed, and searched before being released by law enforcement.
Additionally, at 12:47 a.m. on May 31, Tim Arvier, a journalist at Nine News in Australia, tweeted that he, his cameraman, and their security were “detained and searched by #Minneapolis Police.” He continued, “They cuffed my cameraman and our security but were respectful and have now let us go.”
In a May 31 tweet posted at 5:49 a.m., freelance photojournalist posted a video of police targeting himself and other journalists with tear gas even though they “told the police [they] were from the press.” The video is available online.
According to a May 31 tweet by Deutsche Welle (DW) News, “a DW reporter and his camera operator [were] shot at [overnight] with projectiles by Minneapolis police and threatened with arrest while covering the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.” A video of the incident is available online.
In the afternoon of May 31, Soufflé tweeted that the previous night, European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) photojournalist Tannen Maury and Minneapolis freelance photojournalist Craig Lassig were two of several photojournalists arrested by police for “violating Minneapolis curfew, despite a press exemption.” Maury wrote in a separate tweet, “Charged with curfew violation . . . this one will get dropped. Worst part? I missed three hours of shooting on the streets.”
Megan Palmer, a reporter at the Minnesota Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Minnesota, tweeted that “the police pulled a weapon on me twice tonight, once for doing my job and once for trying to get home.” She added in a subsequent tweet, “I am safe, I am fine, but I am livid and I won’t pretend I’m not.”
Night of May 31/June 1 (Sunday night):
On the night of May 31/June 1, police continued to arrest, assault, or threaten journalists amidst ongoing protests in the Twin Cities. At 8:47 p.m., MPR “Morning Edition” host Cathy Wurzer tweeted that WCCO reporter Mike Max and his cameraperson “had to run for cover” while officers shot rubber bullets and tear gas in the area.
On the night of May 31/June 1, police continued to target journalists amidst ongoing protests in the Twin Cities. At 10:15 p.m., Vice News deputy D.C. bureau chief Todd Zwillich tweeted that as police were “moving protesters up 16th st[reet],” he was “hit in the head with a rubber bullet,” even though his “press credentials [were] out.” A video of the incident is available online.
Law enforcement representatives have suggested that some individuals may be representing themselves as journalists even though they are not. The Washington Post reported that on May 31, guards from the Somali community in Minneapolis stood outside of local businesses, including near Karmel Mall on Lake Street. The Post stated that “Somali youth vetted journalists who approached on Google, matching their publications with previous work online before they would agree to speak.”
Night of June 1/June 2
On the night of June 1/June 2, WCCO reporter John Lauritsen tweeted at 10:28 p.m. that as the Minnesota State patrol “move[d] in,” he was “caught inside by protesters.” Lauritsen said he was “[d]etained but released after [he] showed [his] credentials.”
This report is compiled by Scott Memmel and Jonathan Anderson, Silha Center Research Assistants, and will be updated as the situation warrants. For further information, or to provide additions or corrections, please email Silha Center Director Jane E. Kirtley at [email protected].