U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist arrested amid protests in Lincoln, Nebraska

Incident Details

Screenshot via Facebook

A screenshot from the livestream of Lincoln Journal Star reporter Chris Dunker of protests in Lincoln, Nebraska, on May 31, 2020. Dunker was detained by police while reporting.

— Screenshot via Facebook
May 31, 2020

Lincoln Journal Star reporter Chris Dunker was thrown to the ground and arrested by law enforcement officers while reporting on protests in Lincoln, Nebraska, on May 31, 2020.

Protests that began in Minnesota on May 26 have spread across the country, sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest the day before. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Dunker told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was livestreaming a protest in front of the City/County Building in downtown Lincoln for the outlet’s Facebook page. At approximately 8:35 p.m., officers with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office began to enforce the 8 p.m. curfew order announced that day, he said.

“As law enforcement pursued the protesters away from the area, a deputy sheriff turned toward me and ordered me to leave,” Dunker said. “I was wearing a neon vest with ‘PRESS’ on it and had on my media credential. I told the deputy I had a constitutional right to be there.”

In a video of the incident published by the Journal Star, the deputy can be seen charging at Dunker without a word and tackling him to the ground. Dunker told the Tracker that his knee and elbow were scraped as two deputies pinned him to the ground and handcuffed him.

“I asked them to return my phone, which had fallen onto the concrete parking lot where I was standing, and my hat, which they did,” Dunker said.

Dunker said that another law enforcement officer told the deputy sheriff who had charged at him that officers were not supposed to arrest members of the media. He said the deputy disregarded this and instead continued to lead Dunker to an area where other arrestees were awaiting transport to jail.

“A higher ranking member of the department told the police to check my identity and if I had any warrants before cutting me loose,” Dunker said. “Police promptly did and I was allowed to keep filming the protests for several more hours that evening.”

Sheriff Terry Wagner with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request 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].