Journalist cited while reporting on Brooklyn Center protest

April 13, 2021

Independent journalist Naasir Akailvi, who reports on social media as the Neighborhood Reporter, said he was detained and cited while reporting on a protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 13, 2021.

Demonstrations had been held for several days outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department in response to the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop on April 11. Wright’s death occurred as a former police officer in nearby Minneapolis was on trial in the death of George Floyd, rekindling a wave of protests against racial injustice and police brutality that had started nearly a year earlier.

Akailvi told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that late on the night of April 13 he was reporting as police pushed protesters away from the police station up Humboldt Avenue. He told the Tracker that he believed police had issued dispersal orders earlier in the night, but he hadn’t considered leaving because of them. There was a curfew in effect starting at 10 p.m., according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune; it exempt members of the media.

Shortly before 11 p.m., Akailvi said, police had started to form a crowd-control technique called a “kettle,” which blocks people from leaving, in a gas station.

At one point, Akailvi said, he noticed that police were using batons to smash a car’s windows, and he moved closer to film the scene. Within seconds, he said, he felt someone grab him from behind. He said he was taken down to the ground and his wrists were constrained with zip ties.

Akailvi said that he repeated, “I’m press, I’m press,” and told police he had a press pass; he said he wears a self-made card that has his photograph and identifies him as a journalist. According to Akailvi, police responded by saying that a dispersal order had been issued for media.

Akailvi said police took his camera, mic and tripod. He was put in the back of a police car, he said, and told that he would be charged.

The journalist said that while a Minnesota State Patrol trooper who was in the car with him started writing up his paperwork, he heard over the police radio that law enforcement would not be taking members of the press to jail but would issue citations.

He said he was handed a citation for “failure to obey a lawful order” and that his equipment was returned when he was released. As he was leaving, he said, he again heard an announcement over the police radio directing law enforcement not to cite journalists. However, he said, the trooper told him he would need to fight his citation later.

“I still got my citation, and the cops who gave it to me, they said, you’re just going to have to go fight it in court,” Akailvi said.

Akailvi told the Tracker he has not yet taken steps to fight the charge. His citation says that he is required to appear in court, but no date has been set.

The Minnesota State Patrol did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Akailvi was detained again the following night along with a reporting partner while they were documenting continuing Brooklyn Center protests. The Tracker has documented that April 14 incident here.

On April 16, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order barring Minnesota State Patrol from arresting or threatening to arrest journalists and stating that journalists are not required to leave when there is a dispersal order.

In a statement in response to the court order, the MSP acknowledged that the agency was prohibited from enforcing dispersal orders against journalists.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.

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

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