French television correspondent arrested for curfew violation in Minneapolis

May 30, 2020

A French television correspondent was arrested for curfew violations in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 30, 2020, after police fired rubber projectiles at the car she was riding in, damaging the windshield and sending small shards of glass inside the vehicle. The videographer from her team was arrested at the same time.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents all arrests separately.

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.

Amandine Atalaya, a Washington-based correspondent for TF1, a major French television station, was riding in a rental car driven by her colleague, videographer Mathieu Derrien, in Minneapolis just after 11:15 p.m. when an officer fired a foam projectile at the windshield, damaging it and sending small shards of glass flying inside the car, Derrien told the Tracker in an interview.

Atalaya did not return an interview request as of press time.

Derrien quickly brought the car to a stop, as a few smaller projectiles—perhaps pepper balls—hit the car, leaving behind a white powder.

Officers then approached the car shouting for them to get out and put their hands up, and they complied. They immediately told officers they were French journalists, but the officers said they did not care and that they were in violation of the city’s curfew, Derrien said. The officers pointed their weapons toward the journalists, who showed them their press credentials, issued by the U.S. Senate, but the officers were unmoved.

After securing their hands behind their backs using zip ties, the officers took them to a law enforcement facility across town, Derrien said, where they were fingerprinted and briefly placed in metal handcuffs. She received a citation for misdemeanor curfew violation, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in jail.

Derrien said that he was unsure which agency the officers who arrested them were from. Emails sent to the Minnesota State Patrol and the Minneapolis Police Department inquiring about this matter were not returned as of press time.

Jeremy Zoss, a spokesperson for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, wrote in an email to the Tracker that Derrien and Atalaya were cited at the Hennepin County jail, but the sheriff’s office was not the arresting agency. Upon review of the citation, Zoss said that the arresting agency was not listed, something he termed “unusual” and was likely a result of this being a mass arrest.

The arrests occurred despite the fact that members of the media were specifically exempt from Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s executive order implementing the curfew.

Derrien and Atalaya were released around 2 a.m. and had to find their way back to their car without their cellphones, which were locked inside their vehicle with their gear. A protester who was released at the same time gave them a ride back to the general area where their car was. When they returned to the car, they discovered that one of the tires had been deflated.

In France, Derrien and Atalaya’s colleagues were very concerned when they were unavailable for the live shot they were supposed to do at midnight and called their phones multiple times in search of them, Derrien said.

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]

July 22, 2020 Update

The City of Minneapolis dropped the misdemeanor charge brought against French television correspondent Amandine Atalaya following her arrest on May 30, 2020.

Atalaya, a Washington-based correspondent for TF1, a major French television station, was arrested for breaking curfew alongside her colleague, videographer Mathieu Derrien, 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.

Atalaya did not respond to the Tracker’s email asking if she had received notification of the charges being dropped. Derrien shared with the Committee to Protect Journalists, a Tracker founding partner, a letter dated Aug. 13 notifying him of the dropped charges and that he wouldn’t need to appear for a hearing.

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