Tensions in Minnesota deepen as journalists accuse police of wrongfully impeding press coverage

Brooklyn Center, United States, April 18 2021: Minnesota has experienced a sharp rise in racial and societal divide recently, first because of the public emotions associated with the Derek Chauvin trial and now the recent police killing of Daunte Wright, another young Black man in Minneapolis.

The incident resulted in the arrest of Kim Potter, a 26-year police veteran on manslaughter charges. She said she mistakenly fired her Glock 9mm handgun, thinking it was a Taser. Potter has resigned and faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Protests have rocked the city since Wright was killed when police tried to subdue the victim during what should have been a routine traffic stop. Over the weekend, journalists covering the protests have complained that the police is deliberately limiting access, and impeding their work even as a federal judge issued a restraining order against police clearly stating the journalists’ right to be on site.

On the sixth consecutive night of protests, since Wright was killed during what should have been a routine traffic stop, nearly 500 people gathered before a chain-link fence surrounding the police station in Brooklyn Center, about 10 miles north of Minneapolis while Police with loudspeakers ordered the crowd of protesters to disperse shortly before a 10:00 pm Friday curfew. They then deployed dozens of officers in riot gear. The officers surrounded the demonstrators, then used pepper spray against several members of the media who had clearly identified themselves as such.

On Saturday, the Minnesota State Patrol said in a statement that it would “continue to respect the rights of the media to cover protest activity” and would no longer photograph journalists or their credentials. It also said it had provided guidance to law enforcement outlining actions against journalists that were forbidden according to the restraining order terms. That order enjoined police against “arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force… against any person whom they know or reasonably should know is a Journalist,” unless they believe the person has committed a crime.

The order banned targeting journalists with flash-bang grenades, nonlethal projectiles, riot batons and chemical agents including pepper spray. Police were also banned from seizing journalists’ equipment.

US Press Freedom Tracker, an advocacy group said at least seven journalists had reportedly been attacked or otherwise targeted by law enforcement, and three arrested or detained while covering earlier Brooklyn Center demonstrations.

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