U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Minneapolis police detain St. Paul Pioneer Press staff photographer, other journalists in ‘kettle’

Incident Details

November 4, 2020

Police in Minneapolis cordoned off and detained a crowd of protesters, along with several journalists, including St. Paul Pioneer Press staff photographer John Autey, on the evening of Nov. 4, 2020, Autey told the Committee to Protect Journalists in a phone interview.

Autey said that he was photographing protesters as they marched onto I-94 in Minneapolis and was then trapped with them on the highway as the Minnesota State Patrol and Minneapolis City Police closed off exits and surrounded the crowd using a technique called kettling.

According to the Star Tribune, the protesters represented a wide-range of interests, including support of the Black Lives Matter movement and opposition to President Trump’s allegations of voter fraud in the Nov. 3 election.

While he was trapped on the highway, Autey said that he approached police officers who were blocking the Riverside ramp to I-94, identified himself as a member of the media and asked to be released. Autey said police refused his request. The photojournalist then approached officers on the opposite side of the highway, which was manned by both state troopers and city police, and asked to leave, again stating he was a member of the media. Autey said his second request was also denied.

“The first half-hour [on the highway] was a little tense and it looked like they were going to start using tear gas on us,” said Autey. “That didn’t happen and then [law enforcement] came on the speaker and said everybody there was under arrest and asked us to sit down,” he said.

The photojournalist told CPJ he then sent an email to his on-duty colleagues at the Pioneer Press and said he was about to get arrested. CPJ is a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Around 11:30p.m., law enforcement announced through a loudspeaker that all members of the media who wanted to exit would be allowed, Autey said.

The photojournalist told CPJ that law enforcement glanced at his Pioneer Press badge before allowing him to exit. Autey said that he noticed about a dozen other reporters exiting, including two Minneapolis Star Tribune photojournalists, Leila Navidi and Rich Tsong-Taatarii, who were allowed to leave. The Tracker documented their detainment here.

The Minneapolis Police Department and Minnesota State Troopers did not respond to an emailed request for comment from CPJ.

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