U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Freelance photojournalist arrested while covering Minneapolis protest

Incident Details

February 8, 2022 - Update

Journalists reach settlement agreement with Minnesota State Patrol, rest of suit ongoing

Journalists represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota reached a settlement with the Minnesota State Patrol on Feb. 8, 2022. In addition to an award of $825,000, the agreement includes a permanent injunction barring MSP troopers from arresting or assaulting journalists.

The ACLU filed the class-action lawsuit in June 2020 on behalf of freelance journalist Jared Goyette. The Communications Workers of America — the largest journalist union in the country — and eight other journalists, including freelance photojournalist Craig Lassig, were added as plaintiffs over the next year and a half.

According to the ACLU, the settlement agreement includes a 6-year injunction prohibiting:

  • Arresting, threatening to arrest, and/or using physical force or chemical agents against journalists;
  • Ordering journalists to stop photographing, recording or observing a protest;
  • Making journalists disperse; and
  • Seizing or intentionally damaging equipment such as photo, audio or video gear.

The settlement also includes amending MSP policy so that allegations of aggressions against the press are considered “serious misconduct,” triggering an Internal Affairs investigation, and that independent experts review all complaints alleging mistreatment of journalists during Black Lives Matter protests from 2020 to 2021.

“The Court’s ground-breaking 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,” ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson said in a statement released by the organization. “We need a free press to help us hold the police and government accountable. Without a free press, we don’t have a free society, and we can’t have justice.”

The settlement resolved the complaints against MSP; the allegations against the City of Minneapolis, former Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, former Minneapolis Police union head Robert Kroll and the Hennepin County Sheriff are still ongoing.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documented 97 assaults and 41 arrests of journalists in Minnesota while covering protests sparked by the police killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright. At least 12 journalists also had their equipment damaged. Find all of these cases here.

August 3, 2020 - Update

Charges dropped against freelance photojournalist arrested while covering Minneapolis protest

The City of Minneapolis dropped the misdemeanor charge brought against freelance photojournalist Craig Lassig following his arrest on May 30, 2020.

Lassig was arrested for being out past curfew alongside two other photojournalists while documenting protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest on May 26.

City spokesperson Casper Hill told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that around July 22, the staff in the City Attorney’s Office were tasked with dismissing all curfew violations and unlawful assembly charges in cases where there were no additional criminal charges.

Hill said that letters notifying individuals of the dropped charges were mailed to counsel for those who had it, with the assumption that the attorneys would notify their clients, and directly to those without counsel.

Lassig shared with the Tracker a copy of an Aug. 3 letter that he received from the City Attorney’s Office notifying him that the charge against him had been dropped.

June 8, 2020 - Update

Freelance photojournalist sues following arrest while covering Minneapolis protest

Freelance photojournalist Craig Lassig joined the ACLU of Minnesota’s lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis and law enforcement following his arrest on May 30, 2020.

The ACLU filed the initial complaint on June 2, naming as defendants the city, Police Officers Federation President Lt. Robert Kroll, police chief Medaria Arradondo, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matthew Langer, as well as two John Does.

Lassig, who was arrested for being out past curfew alongside two other photojournalists while documenting protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, joined the suit on June 8, according to an amended complaint reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

May 30, 2020

Freelance photojournalist Craig Lassig was arrested alongside two other journalists while covering protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 30, 2020.

Multiple days of protests in Minneapolis and across the nation were sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest on May 25. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents all arrests separately. Find arrests of journalists covering protests related to the death of George Floyd here.

At just after 9 p.m., Lassig was walking with photojournalists Stephen Maturen and Tannen Maury on Nicollet Avenue toward 28th Street where a “parade” of police cruisers was driving, according to Maturen.

Maturen told the Tracker that a police cruiser had stopped abruptly on their block and began shooting less-lethal rounds at the handful of people around them.

The three photojournalists identified themselves as members of the media, and were initially told to keep moving.

A moment later, Maturen said, someone made the call to arrest the journalists.

Lassig told the Tracker that the arrest was uneventful.

“The cop that handled me was professional and was careful with my gear,” Lassig said.

Aside from the fact that there was no reason to detain the three of them, he said, they were treated well and only in police custody for approximately two hours.

The journalists were taken to the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis and cited with breaking the city’s curfew order, a misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in jail.The curfew order specifically exempted members of the news media, however.

Maturen told the Tracker that all of their belongings were returned to them upon their release.

Neither the Minneapolis State Patrol nor the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department could immediately be reached for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting damage of equipment and multiple journalists arrested or struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas while covering related protests across the country. Find all of these cases here.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]