Photojournalist arrested while covering Minneapolis protests

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 Maurey 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 Maurey 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]

July 22, 2020 Update

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.

July 30, 2020 Update

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.

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