Two Minneapolis Star Tribune photojournalists were among a group of journalists detained by police while covering protests in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on the night of April 16, 2021, according to reports shared with the U.S. Freedom Tracker, or published on social media or other news outlets.
Several hundred protesters 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., according to Minnesota Public Radio, police moved swiftly to corral the protesters and members of the press, deploying flash-bang grenades and pepper spray. State officials said in a news conference that a coalition of law-enforcement agencies, including the Minnesota State Patrol, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the Brooklyn Center Police Department, was involved in enforcement that night.
Minneapolis Star Tribune journalist Renée Jones Schneider told the Tracker she was detained while covering the protest with her colleague, Liz Flores.
Jones Schneider said the journalists were in front of the police department, on the northwest side of Humboldt Avenue. She said they had decided to separate themselves from the crowd of protesters, because they were unsure what the demonstrators planned to do.
Jones Schneider said they heard a dispersal order, which, unlike at protests earlier in the week, didn’t include any specific announcement for members of the media to leave. Suddenly, she said, the crowd ran toward them.
She said she and Flores decided to go up the street to see what was prompting people to run, but when they turned, she said, a large line of police officers was approaching.
Jones Schneider said that they identified themselves as press. They were also wearing large press passes, issued by the Star Tribune, and gas masks, she said.
The police told them they didn’t care that they were press, Jones Schneider said, and directed them to turn and go back up the street. The law enforcement agents then ordered her and people near her to lie on the ground on their stomachs.
Jones Schneider said many other people who were detained near her were also members of the press. She said that police weren’t touching or yelling at anyone in the group, and that she wasn’t worried about getting arrested, but that the situation was surprising.
After a few minutes, Jones Schneider said, the journalists were allowed to get up. Police told the journalists that they wanted to look at their credentials before they let them go. Jones Schneider said they were told to go up the street, where they encountered another line of officers and a different group of journalists. There, she said, police directed them to take out their press credentials and their state-issued identifications, and took photographs of their faces and documents.
The next day, Jones Schneider retweeted a video of two other Star Tribune journalists having their credentials photographed. She wrote that she was screened twice, because law enforcement checked her credentials when she had been detained and forced to lie on her stomach earlier in the night.
Jones Schneider and the other journalists in the group were detained hours after a federal judge had issued a temporary restraining order barring police 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.
The Minnesota State Patrol didn’t respond to a request for comment about the specific detainment of the Star Tribune journalists.
When reached for general comment, 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 same category as arrests, but notes that the journalists were released without being processed.
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.