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French videographer arrested with colleague for curfew violation in Minneapolis

May 30, 2020

A French videographer was arrested for curfew violations in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 30, 2020, after police fired rubber projectiles at the car he was driving, damaging the windshield and sending small shards of glass inside the vehicle. The correspondent from his team was also arrested.

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.

Mathieu Derrien, videographer for TF1, a major French television station, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in an interview that he was driving a rental car with his colleague, TF1 correspondent Amandine Atalaya, around Minneapolis just after 11:15 p.m. looking for people to interview when he made a turn off Lake Street.

A few seconds after making the turn, a foam projectile hit his windshield, damaging it and sending small shards of glass flying inside the car, he told the Tracker. The glass did not injure either journalist. Derrien quickly brought the car to a stop, as a few smaller projectiles—perhaps pepper balls—hit the windshield, leaving behind a white powder.

Officers then approached the car shouting for Derrien and Atalaya to get out and put their hands up, and they complied. “We immediately told them we were French journalists,” Derrien said. “They replied that they didn’t care and that there was a curfew in place.” 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. He 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 was 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 arrest 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 “worried sick” when they were unavailable for the live shot they were supposed to do at midnight. “They called our phones many times, so when we got to the car, we had 15 or 20 missed calls each,” Derrien said. “They were starting to imagine the worst.”

Derrien later recounted what transpired to French daily newspaper Libération and tweeted out a photo of the car’s damaged windshield, writing that the situation had left them with “more fear than harm.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred total incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country related to the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Find these cases here.

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

August 13, 2020 Update

Charges against TF1 videographer Mathieu Derrien have been dismissed, according to a letter he shared with the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Dated Aug. 13, 2020, the letter from Minneapolis’ Deputy City Attorney Mary Ellen Heng notified Derrien that the case against him had been dismissed and that he did not need to appear in court.

On May 30, Derrien and a colleague were arrested while covering protests in Minnesota for what he understood to be a curfew violation. The letter specified Derrien’s alleged offense as failure to comply with a lawful order.

When asked for comment, Heng forwarded the request to City of Minneapolis spokesperson Casper Hill, who told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that the city is only moving forward with prosecution when there are criminal charges beyond curfew violation or unlawful assembly.

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