ACLU-MN sues law enforcement over attacks on journalists during George Floyd protests

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a class-action lawsuit overnight Tuesday after several journalists said they were targeted and attacked by law enforcement while covering the protests and riots that followed the death of George Floyd.

According to a release, the ACLU-MN, Fredrikson & Byron P.A. and Apollo Law LLC are suing the City of Minneapolis, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, police union head Lt. Bob Kroll, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and Minnesota State Patrol Colonel Matthew Langer. 

"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 wrote. "They have tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed and shot journalists in the face with rubber bullets, partially blinding a photographer. 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."

Officials said the lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to stop law enforcement from attacking and targeting journalists, now and in the future. It also seeks a declaration that police conduct violated the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

“Law enforcement is using violence and threats to deter the media from vigorously reporting on demonstrations and the conduct of police in public places,” ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson said in the 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.”

According to the release, the lawsuit’s lead plaintiff, Jared Goyette, was documenting protesters’ efforts to shield and help a seriously injured young black man when police fired a projectile at his face. 

“Journalists aren’t the only victims,” Goyette said. “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.”