A class-action lawsuit was filed this week against the leaders of the Minneapolis Police Department, the Minnesota State Patrol, and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety for their “attacks” on journalists during last week’s riots.
“The press is under assault in our City. Over the past week, the Minneapolis Police and the Minnesota State Patrol have tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, shot in the face with rubber bullets, arrested without cause, and threatened journalists at gunpoint, all after these journalists identified themselves and were otherwise clearly engaged in their reporting duties,” states the lawsuit.
The complaint was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota against the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Bob Kroll, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, and Minnesota State Patrol Colonel Matthew Langer.
The lawsuit’s lead plaintiff, Jared Goyette, was documenting protesters’ efforts to shield and help an injured person when police fired a projectile at his face.
I want to be reporting. Instead I am getting my eye looked at. Here is me and my patient daughter. She wants me to get an eye patch so I look like a pirate.
— Jared Goyette (@JaredGoyette) May 28, 2020
“Journalists aren’t the only victims,” Goyette said in a press 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 seeks a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to stop law enforcement “from attacking and targeting journalists,” a declaration that police conduct during the riots violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and financial damages.
The complaint accuses the Minneapolis Police Department of a “history of unconstitutional actions against journalists” and a failure to properly train officers in this regard.
“Law enforcement is using violence and threats to deter the media from vigorously reporting on demonstrations and the conduct of police in public places,” Teresa Nelson, ACLU legal director, said in a press release.
“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,” she added.
The ACLU compiled a video of several instances of law enforcement officers using force on journalists during the Minneapolis riots. The lawsuit doesn’t name the Minnesota National Guard as a defendant, but the guard was activated and called to the Twin Cities to help put an end to the unrest.
“This pattern and practice of conduct by law enforcement tramples on the Constitution. It violates the sacrosanct right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press that form the linchpin of a free society,” states the lawsuit. “It constitutes a pattern of unreasonable force and unlawful seizures under the Fourth Amendment. And it deprives liberty without a modicum of due process protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.”
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