ACLU wins $825K settlement for reporters cops allegedly mistreated during George Floyd, Daunte Wright protests
The American Civil Liberties Union has won an $ 825,000 settlement for reporters who were allegedly mistreated by Minnesota State Patrol while covering protests over the police killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright.
Per the settlement, a federal judge has approved a permanent injunction that prohibits MSP from using force on reporters for the next six years.
MSP is now prohibited from threatening to arrest reporters and from using physical force or chemical agents against them. MSP can no longer order reporters to stop photographing, recording, or observing a protest; it can no longer make reporters disperse; and is prohibited from seizing or damaging a reporter’s recording requirement.
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ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson said the injunction “will hold state law enforcement accountable and require them to respect the First Amendment, rather than use violence and threats that deter the media from covering protests and police conduct.”
The ACLU-MN and other attorneys filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Communications Workers of America and other individual journalists in June 2020. At that time, Minneapolis was gripped by widespread protests against police after George Floyd, a Black man, died while in the custody of White Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The protests quickly spread across the nation and ignited a movement to defund police departments.
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Protests were renewed in April 2021, after a Minneapolis-area police officer, Kim Potter, shot and killed Daunte Wright, an unarmed Black male, during a traffic stop.
Several journalists reported being struck by less-lethal munitions, herded and detained while covering protests. After Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by an officer in Brooklyn Center in April, the city’s police station was surrounded for several nights by protesters.
Tim Evans, a freelance photographer, described to The Associated Press how officers surrounded protesters after a 10 pm curfew passed, then charged into the crowd and began pepper-spraying and tackling people. Evans said he was punched in the face, his credentials were torn off and an officer forced him to his stomach and knelt on his back.
Other journalists posted photos and videos online showing police detaining them while checking their credentials, and in at least one case spraying chemical irritants.
The ACLU added other plaintiffs to its June 2020 lawsuit over further allegations of MSP mistreating reporters covering protests in the wake of Wright’s death.
The settlement establishes an independent expert review of all complaints alleging mistreatment of reporters who covered the aforementioned protests and compels MSP training on treatment of the media and First Amendment rights.
“The unprecedented civil unrest and riots of the last two years were difficult for all involved, including media and law enforcement,” Colonel Matt Langer, chief of the State Patrol, said in a statement. “We learn from incidents like these and look for ways to make us better.”
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This settlement, however, only resolves the case against MSP and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Allegations of other law enforcement agencies and figures violating the rights of reporters are still being settled in court.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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