ST. PAUL — The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has filed a class action lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis and Minnesota law enforcement on behalf of journalists who claim they have been targeted by law enforcement while covering protests in the wake of George Floyd's death.
Reporters have covered daily demonstrations, some peaceful and some not, in the Twin Cities and in Greater Minnesota since former-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin reportedly knelt on Floyd's neck last Monday, May 25. The ACLU-MN claims in its suit that law enforcement officers have "tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed and shot journalists in the face with rubber bullets" as they document these demonstrations, even after they identify themselves as press.
The ACLU-MN names the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and Minnesota State Patrol Colonel Matthew Langer as defendants in the case. The case was filed on Wednesday, June 3 in the U.S. District Court in Minnesota.
"Over the past week, Minneapolis Police and the Minnesota State Patrol have engaged in an extraordinary escalation of unlawful force deliberately targeting journalists," the ACLU-MN said in a Wednesday news release. "They have arrested journalists without cause and threatened them at gunpoint — even though these journalists identified themselves and were clearly in the middle of reporting."
The class action suit seeks damages, a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction on officers from targeting journalists, and claims the officers have violated the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. ACLU-MN also said the Minneapolis police have "a history of unconstitutional actions against journalists."
Minneapolis-based law firms Fredrikson & Byron P.A. and Apollo Law LLC are also on the case.
ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson said Wednesday that journalists keep public officials accountable, and that violence against reporters damages public trust of police and government.
Freelance journalist Jared Goyette is the lead plaintiff on the class action suit. According to the ACLU-MN, police fired a less-than-lethal projectile at his face. Goyette said Wednesday that journalists "aren't the only victims."
“Actions like this make protesters, people trying to advocate for change, more vulnerable because journalists provide a witness and police are aware of that," Goyette said. "Without journalists there, police or other people in power can feel a sense of impunity that no one will see what’s happening anyway."
ACLU-MN also said Wednesday they are "pursuing legal options to stop police brutality against protesters and (people of color) organizers."