Officers point weapons at photojournalist, pull him out of car at Brooklyn Center protest

April 13, 2021

Chris Tuite, a freelance photojournalist, said law enforcement officers aimed firearms at him and pulled him from a vehicle as he covered a protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 13, 2021.

The fatal police shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center on April 11, 2021 rekindled a wave of racial-justice protests that began almost a year earlier. Wright’s death, on April 11, occurred as a former police officer in nearby Minneapolis was on trial in the death of George Floyd. Protests began outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department the day Wright was killed, and continued daily through mid-April.

Tuite told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was at a gas station near the protests when he ran into a second photojournalist, Joshua Rashaad McFadden, who was on assignment for The New York Times. McFadden told the Tracker that police had gotten more aggressive with the crowd as the protest continued into the night, and that he heard officers order press to leave the area.

The two photographers saw a car coming toward them, McFadden said, and the driver offered to take them to where McFadden’s car was parked. Right after they got in the car, he said, a large number of officers started up the street. Police and National Guard vehicles also pulled into the area, he said.

Officers surrounded the car Tuite and McFadden were in and beat on the windows with batons and the butts of their weapons, Tuite said.

“The state police rolled up with their AR-15s, pointed them at us and then tried to knock the window in using the butt of their guns,” Tuite said.

Both photojournalists, who were in the back seat, were ordered to exit the vehicle but were unable to because the vehicle was surrounded.

“We didn’t know the driver, but they pulled the driver away, arrested him and took him away,” Tuite said. “I screamed ‘Media!’ maybe 20 times, and held my media pass up to the window.”

The officers then pulled Tuite from the vehicle, he said. After again identifying himself as a member of the press, Tuite said the officer standing nearest him finally listened.

At around the same time, two officers got into the vehicle — one into the driver’s seat and the other in the back next to him — and began hitting him with their clubs, striking him on his legs and hitting his camera.

“I saw them hitting Josh with their batons, including his camera,” Tuite said. “He’s a Black male, and they trusted me more than him. It took me saying 10 times that he was media before they got off of him.”

The Tracker has documented McFadden’s assault and damage to his equipment here.

The Minnesota State Patrol didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Officers ultimately allowed the pair to leave once Tuite offered to walk McFadden back to his car. The photjournalists crossed the street to where other members of the press were gathered, Tuite said, and documented a little more of the standoff between law enforcement and the protesters before leaving the scene.

Tuite told the Tracker that a reporter for progressive independent outlet Status Coup, Jon Farina, captured footage of law enforcement stopping cars and ordering the passengers to exit where he and McFadden were stopped, but hadn’t filmed their specific encounter.

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]

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