Journalists for European outlets hit with projectiles during Minneapolis protest

May 29, 2020

Three journalists for European outlets said they were targeted by law enforcement while covering protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 29, 2020.

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.

Nina Svanberg, a reporter for the Swedish outlet Expressen, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that she and Thomas Nilsson, a photojournalist for Norwegian outlet Verdens Gang, had walked with protesters up from the Third Precinct to the Fifth Precinct. National Guard troops and police arrived to the area to disperse the crowd and enforce the 8 p.m. curfew in place on May 29.

At approximately 11:30 p.m., Minneapolis Police Department officers began indiscriminately firing projectiles and tear gas to disperse the crowd, Svanberg said. One hit her on the hip.

“All of a sudden, I feel a sudden pain in the leg, and I’m losing my balance and falling down,” Svanberg told CPJ.

She added that she crawled behind a car to avoid being hit again, but was caught in the tear gas. Nilsson was affected by the chemical irritant as well.

Mikko Marttinen, a reporter for Finnish outlet Ilta-Sanomat who was in the same area, told CPJ that a second rubber bullet ricocheted off the ground and struck him in the face. He said his glasses, which were broken by the projectiles, saved his eye.

“I only got a few scratches on my eyelid and around my eye,” Marttinen said. “So I was pretty OK.”

The three journalists eventually met up in an alley where an Australian news team was sheltering with its security team.

It was there that Nilsson discovered that he had a red laser sight on his stomach, he wrote in an account for Verdens Gang.

According to his account, he moved farther into the alley and waited for about 10 minutes. When he looked out to check whether it was safe, he found himself once again targeted with a laser sight, he wrote. Nilsson could not be reached for comment.

Svanberg told CPJ, “The thing is, I think it was obvious that we were there working. We were behaving like journalists and not demonstrators.”

Svanberg added that both she and Nilsson were wearing press passes. Nilsson noted in his account that he also was carrying two cameras and was wearing a helmet and a gas mask. In the account he said that he is certain the police knew they were journalists.

The Minneapolis Police Department did not respond to multiple phone and emailed requests for comment.

“We stood there for a while,” Svanberg said. “And then we just went from the corner and continued working.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred 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 all of these cases here.

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

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