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. Minnesota Public Radio reported that around 10 p.m. police moved swiftly to corral the protesters and members of the press, deploying flash-bang grenades and pepper spray. According to state officials, 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.
Star Tribune photojournalist Liz Flores told the Tracker she was detained with her colleague Renée Jones Schneider. The Tracker has documented Jones Schneider’s detainment here.
Flores told the Tracker that the journalists had been standing near the fence that surrounded the police station when members of the crowd started to shout, “Run!” Flores said that she and Jones Schneider started to move away from the area but that she stopped to take photographs of the scene.
“All of a sudden I saw police everywhere, all around us,” she said.
Flores said she and Jones Schneider soon came across a line of law enforcement officers, holding long sticks, who moved to corral the group of people near them.
Flores said she and Jones Schneider held out their press passes — large cards issued by the Star Tribune — to identify themselves as journalists, but police shouted at them to get down on the ground. Flores said she kneeled and continued to show her press pass. Police directed them to “get on your stomachs,” she said.
While lying on her stomach, she said, she continued to display her press credentials. According to Jones Schneider, many of the people detained with them were also journalists. Find reports on the detainments from the night of April 16 in Brooklyn Center here.
Flores posted an image she took for the Star Tribune on Instagram. After about 10 minutes, Flores said, police let the journalists get up but not leave. She said that police moved the journalists up the street, where they waited in line as officers photographed journalists’ faces, press credentials and identity cards.
Suki Dardarian, senior managing editor of the Star Tribune, told the Tracker in a statement that in 2020 and 2021, the publication’s journalists have been subject to crowd-control munitions and chemical agents, detained, and photographed by law enforcement despite showing ID. She said authorities sometimes ignored the credentials they instructed journalists to wear. “And to make matters worse, it was unclear in some cases what agency the officer represented,” she said.
She said that the publication and other media organizations have spoken with authorities, who have “pledged to improve their treatment of the media.”
Flores and Jones Schneider 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 did not respond to a request for comment about the 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 MSP, which acknowledged that troopers had photographed journalists, their media credentials and their identification “during recent enforcement actions in Brooklyn Center.” The 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.
The agency said that troopers will no longer photograph journalists and their credentials, but will continue to check media credentials.
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.