U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photographer arrested, cited while covering Brooklyn Center protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
April 13, 2021

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Status of Charges
Charges dropped
Arresting Authority
Minnesota State Patrol
Unnecessary use of force?
Yes

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
May 21, 2021 - Update

Charges dropped against photographer arrested, cited while covering Brooklyn Center protests

Photojournalist Adam Gray, arrested in April in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, was notified on May 21, 2021, that the charges against him had not been fully processed due to his status as a journalist.

Gray, who is the chief photojournalist for UK-based South West News Service, was pushed to the ground, handcuffed and cited with failure to follow a lawful order while covering demonstrations on April 13.

In a letter shared with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell notified Gray that the citation had not been processed to the state courts e-filing system.

“It is my understanding that the law enforcement leaders became aware that you were a journalist covering the unrest,” Schnell wrote. “Leaders directed that citation be removed for upload to the state courts e-charging system.”

Schnell also confirmed with the Minnesota State Patrol that the charging document had been removed from MSP’s e-citation system, functionally dropping the charges.

“I apologize for the inconvenience this action created for you and the other journalists working to cover the Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, incident,” Schnell wrote.

April 13, 2021

Adam Gray, chief photojournalist for UK-based South West News Service, was pushed to the ground, handcuffed, and cited with failure to follow a lawful order while he was covering protests in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 13, 2021.

Protests began following the fatal shooting of a Black man, Daunte Wright, by a white Brooklyn Center Police Department officer on April 11.

Gray was covering police pushing protesters north on Humboldt Avenue away from the police station around 10:30 p.m. when law enforcement directed protesters and press to leave, Gray said in an email sent to the Committee to Protect Journalists. CPJ is a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Brooklyn Center, which is near Minneapolis, St. Paul and Minneapolis were under a 10 p.m. curfew; journalists were exempt, according to news reports.

At approximately 10:38 p.m., law enforcement rushed people down the block, and shortly after pushed people into the area of a Kisch Oil Company gas station, screaming at them to “get out” and “leave,” Gray said, noting that he was documenting the unfolding chaos.

The photojournalist said that he was walking backward away from law enforcement so that he could keep them in view and take photographs.

“I wasn’t going to turn my back and run because that’s usually when they chase you,” said Gray, who was arrested last year while covering protests in New York City.

Gray said that as the crowd moved away from the approaching law enforcement, it became apparent that police were encroaching in on the crowd, catching Gray and protesters in a “kettle,” a technique where police surround a group from all sides.

“I was very clearly press,” the photojournalist said, noting that he also had two large cameras around his neck in addition to press credentials issued by the New York Police Department.

A video Gray later posted to his Instagram account of the moments leading up to his arrest shows Minnesota State Patrol in full riot gear charging at him and shoving him onto a patch of grass. In the video, Gray can be heard saying that he is a member of the press and was trying to return to his car.

Gray said he had been working near several other journalists, though his colleagues had managed to escape the kettle and subsequent detention.

State Patrol officials ziptied Gray’s hands while he was facedown in the grass before rolling him over and standing him up, the photojournalist said.

Gray said he was then taken to a patrol car where a state patrol officer cited Gray for “failure to obey a lawful order.” While the order was being written, Gray said he heard a voice on the radio that said members of the press should be charged with failure to disperse, rather than unlawful assembly.

While Gray was still in the car, and after the citation was written, a voice came on the radio and instructed law enforcement not to issue citations to the press, and to release them, Gray said. The photojournalist asked the officer who wrote his citation then a senior officer if the citation should be deleted, and the senior officer said to leave it, Gray said.

Gray’s citation, which was reviewed by CPJ, requires him to schedule a court appearance within 30 days of the citation’s issue. Mickey Osterreicher, General Counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, told CPJ via email that he is hopeful that they are in the process of resolving the charge.

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.

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