U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist detained, shoved while covering Brooklyn Center protest

Incident Details

April 16, 2021

Freelance journalist J.D. Duggan said he was detained and shoved to the ground by a law enforcement officer while reporting on a protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 16, 2021.

Several hundred protesters had marched to the Brooklyn Center Police Department in response to the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man, by a white police officer during a traffic stop. Wright’s death, on April 11, 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.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the protest had been peaceful until around 9 p.m., when, authorities told the outlet, some in the crowd began to throw objects and attempt to break through a barrier around the police station, prompting the declaration of an unlawful assembly and orders for dispersal. At around 10 p.m., Minnesota Public Radio reported that police moved swiftly to corral the protesters and members of the press, deploying flash-bang grenades and pepper spray.

Amid the unrest, a group of journalists was detained by law enforcement officers in Brooklyn Center and ordered to lie on the ground, according to reports given to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, noted on social media or published on other news outlets. Find reports on the detainments from the night of April 16 in Brooklyn Center here.

Duggan, who has written for outlets including The Intercept and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that when lines of law enforcement officers started moving in to surround the crowd, he found himself near a group of other journalists.

Officers surrounded the group and shouted at them to get on the ground, so Duggan said he got down on his knees. Duggan said he shouted out to identify himself as a member of the press.

As he was on his knees, he said, an officer came up behind him, shoved him on his back between his shoulders and yelled at him to lie on the ground.

Duggan said he didn’t see which law enforcement agency the officer who shoved him was with.

Video he posted on Twitter, which appears to be filmed from the ground, shows multiple Minnesota State Patrol troopers standing nearby.

At one point, Duggan says, “I’m press, I’m press. Can I get out of here?”

“Hang tight” a voice can be heard responding.

Minutes later, a voice orders members of the press to stand up, and a trooper checks Duggan’s credential.

Duggan told the Tracker after the journalists were allowed to get up, officers led them across a parking lot and kept the members of the press in a group. He said officers took photographs of his face, his ID and his press credential.

He was allowed to go about 45 minutes after he was first detained, he said.

Duggan said he was displaying his press badge at the time he was detained. His badge is issued by The Minnesota Daily, the University of Minnesota student newspaper where he was a journalist until he graduated in December.

Duggan and other journalists were detained hours after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order barring state law enforcement from arresting or using force against journalists, in response to a motion filed earlier in the week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.

The next day, April 17, more than two dozen media and advocacy organizations sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz expressing concern about the detainments and other police treatment of journalists since the protests began. CBS signed the letter on behalf of WCCO.

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety referred the Tracker to a statement from the Minnesota State Patrol, which acknowledged that troopers had photographed journalists, their media credentials and their identification “during recent enforcement actions in Brooklyn Center.” MSP said that though journalists had been detained and released during the protests, no journalists were arrested. The Tracker documents detainments in the arrest category but notes that the journalists were released without being processed. MSP didn’t respond to a request for comment specifically about Duggan.

The agency said troopers will no longer photograph journalists and their credentials, but will continue to check media credentials.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents incidents of journalists being 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].