U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist arrested while covering Minneapolis protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 30, 2020
Case number
Case Status
Ongoing, Settled
Type of case
Class Action

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Unnecessary use of force?

Law enforcement at a Minneapolis protest on May 30, 2020, after the police killing of George Floyd. Photojournalist Stephen Maturen was documenting protests when he was arrested for breaking a curfew order that specifically exempted members of the media.

February 8, 2024 - Update

Journalists get nearly $1M settlement over Minneapolis BLM protest attacks

Photojournalist Stephen Maturen and multiple other journalists assaulted or arrested by law enforcement during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020–21 will receive a $950,000 settlement from the City of Minneapolis. The city council approved the agreement on Feb. 8, 2024.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota had filed the class-action suit in June 2020 on behalf of lead plaintiff Jared Goyette against the city and various members of law enforcement, including officials at the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol.

Over the following year and a half, the Communications Workers of America union and eight other journalists joined the suit; one later withdrew. The union will receive a portion of the settlement award.

Journalists who covered the protests in Minnesota over the police killings of George Floyd in 2020 and Daunte Wright in 2021 reported being violently attacked by law enforcement at the demonstrations, including with rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas.

Maturen was arrested while documenting a May 2020 protest in Minneapolis and charged with breaking a city curfew order that specifically exempted members of the media. The charge was dropped two months later.

The plaintiffs reached an earlier settlement with the Minnesota State Patrol in February 2022, winning $825,000 and a permanent injunction barring state troopers from arresting or assaulting journalists.

Separately, the city and police department are bound by a consent decree with the Department of Justice, which reported in June 2023 that its multiyear investigation into the MPD had exposed a number of civil rights violations.

In the latest settlement, however, neither the city nor the police department agreed to any policy changes.

“While this settlement is a crucial step toward protecting freedom of the press, we are troubled that the city of Minneapolis was unwilling to acknowledge any wrongdoing despite MPD’s long history of excessive force,” said Teresa Nelson, legal director for the ACLU of Minnesota. “There clearly is more work to be done. Journalists who are covering police brutality should never be met with more police brutality.”

Maturen did not respond to a request for comment from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

The journalists’ suit against a former sheriff and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office continues, according to the ACLU, which said oral arguments are expected this May or June in an appeal over the sheriff’s bid for qualified immunity.

February 8, 2022 - Update

Journalists reach settlement agreement with Minnesota State Patrol, rest of suit ongoing

Journalists represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota reached a settlement with the Minnesota State Patrol on Feb. 8, 2022. In addition to an award of $825,000, the agreement includes a permanent injunction barring MSP troopers from arresting or assaulting journalists.

The ACLU filed the class-action lawsuit in June 2020 on behalf of freelance journalist Jared Goyette. The Communications Workers of America — the largest journalist union in the country — and eight other journalists, including freelance photojournalist Stephen Maturen, were added as plaintiffs over the next year and a half.

According to the ACLU, the settlement agreement includes a 6-year injunction prohibiting:

  • Arresting, threatening to arrest, and/or using physical force or chemical agents against journalists;
  • Ordering journalists to stop photographing, recording or observing a protest;
  • Making journalists disperse; and
  • Seizing or intentionally damaging equipment such as photo, audio or video gear.

The settlement also includes amending MSP policy so that allegations of aggressions against the press are considered “serious misconduct,” triggering an Internal Affairs investigation, and that independent experts review all complaints alleging mistreatment of journalists during Black Lives Matter protests from 2020 to 2021.

“The Court’s ground-breaking injunction will hold state law enforcement accountable and require them to respect the First Amendment, rather than use violence and threats that deter the media from covering protests and police conduct,” ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson said in a statement released by the organization. “We need a free press to help us hold the police and government accountable. Without a free press, we don’t have a free society, and we can’t have justice.”

The settlement resolved the complaints against MSP; the allegations against the City of Minneapolis, former Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, former Minneapolis Police union head Robert Kroll and the Hennepin County Sheriff are still ongoing.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documented 97 assaults and 41 arrests of journalists in Minnesota while covering protests sparked by the police killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright. At least 12 journalists also had their equipment damaged. Find all of these cases here.

July 30, 2020 - Update

Freelance photojournalist joins ACLU suit following arrest while covering Minneapolis protest

Freelance photojournalist Stephen Maturen joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota’s lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis and law enforcement on July 30, 2020, according to an amended complaint reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Maturen was arrested May 30 for being out past curfew alongside two other photojournalists while documenting protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

The ACLU filed the initial complaint on June 2, naming as defendants the city, Police Officers Federation President Lt. Robert Kroll, police chief Medaria Arradondo, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matthew Langer, as well as two John Does.

July 22, 2020 - Update

Charges dropped against photojournalist arrested while covering Minneapolis protests

The City of Minneapolis dropped the misdemeanor charge brought against freelance photojournalist Stephen Maturen following his arrest on May 30, 2020.

Maturen — who was on assignment for Getty Images — was arrested for being out past curfew alongside two other photojournalists while documenting protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest on May 26.

City spokesperson Casper Hill told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that around July 22, the staff in the City Attorney’s Office were tasked with dismissing all curfew violations and unlawful assembly charges in cases where there were no additional criminal charges.

Hill said that letters notifying individuals of the dropped charges were mailed to counsel for those who had it, with the assumption that the attorneys would notify their clients, and directly to those without counsel.

Maturen told the Tracker that he hasn’t received any official notice from the City Attorney’s Office, but that the Getty Images News Director of Photography informed him over the phone in early August that the charges had been dropped.

May 30, 2020

Freelance photojournalist Stephen Maturen was arrested alongside two other journalists while covering protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 30, 2020.

Multiple days of protests in Minneapolis and across the nation were sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest on May 25. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents all arrests separately. Find arrests of journalists covering protests related to the death of George Floyd here.

Maturen told the Tracker that he had met up with fellow photojournalists at around 9 p.m. Approximately 10-15 minutes later, they were walking north on Nicollet Avenue toward 28th Street when they saw a “parade” of police cruisers driving to where the majority of protesters had scattered.

“[A police cruiser] stopped abruptly and a number of members of the Sheriff’s Department poured out shooting either markers or gas canisters at the handful of people on that block,” Maturen said.

Maturen — along with European Pressphoto Agency photojournalist Tannen Maury and freelance photojournalist Craig Lassig — identified themselves as members of the media, and were initially told to keep moving.

“There was a moment where it seemed as though we would just be pushed out of that block, but then someone decided to call for us to be arrested,” Maturen said.

The photojournalists were all ordered to get on the ground face down with their hands out.

Maturen said that he was not injured in the course of the arrest and that things “were relatively smooth, all things considered.” He added, however, that when his hands were zip-tied he was still wearing his backpack, and officers cut its straps instead of redoing the ties.

Maturen, Lassig and Maury were taken to the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis and cited with breaking the city’s curfew order, a misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in jail. The curfew order specifically exempted members of the news media, however.

They were in police custody for approximately two hours, and Maturen said that his belongings — including his damaged backpack and camera — were returned to him upon his release.

Neither the Minneapolis State Patrol nor the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department could immediately be reached for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting damage of equipment and multiple journalists arrested or struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas while covering related protests across the country. Find all of these cases here.

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