Independent photojournalist Jon Farina was shoved by a law enforcement officer while covering a protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, for the online outlet Status Coup on April 16, 2021.
Demonstrations were held several days in a row outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department in response to the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop on April 11. Wright’s death 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.
Farina, a New York-based journalist, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that on the night of April 16 officers were using rubber bullets on the crowd and chasing people away from the police station.
Farina said he stayed off to the side of the crowd as officers pushed protesters back. He said he eventually found himself by some residential buildings near the police station, where officers were making arrests.
At first, he said, officers didn’t say anything to him.
In a video Status Coup posted to Twitter, multiple law enforcement officers holding shields marked “sheriff” can be seen in a line. An officer, who is wearing a vest that says “sheriff” on the back, turns and approaches the camera. He repeats, “back up, back up.”
“What’s the reason? nothing’s happening,” Farina replies.
“You got a zoom on that thing, back up, back up,” the officer says, referencing Farina’s camera.
The officer moves suddenly close to the camera. Farina told the Tracker that the officer held a baton with a hand at each end and used it to shove the journalist in the shoulder.
Immediately afterwards, Farina said, a second officer came up behind him, grabbed his backpack and used it to pull him back. The second officer can be heard on the video shouting “get out of here!”
Farina backs away as the second officer, who was wearing green, follows and shines a flashlight at him. Farina tries to speak with the officer, who moves toward him and shouts “get out of here!” again.
Farina told the Tracker he decided to leave that area then because he felt he might be arrested if he stayed. As he was moving away, he saw other members of the press lying face down. He said he continued moving past them.
Eventually Farina said he came to a checkpoint where law enforcement officers were taking photographs of journalists’ credentials and faces.
Farina said he started to leave but an officer stopped him and asked if other officers had said he could go. Farina said he told him, “This is not how this works. You guys shouldn't be doing this.”
The officer brought over a lieutenant, he said, and Farina continued to explain his objections to being photographed. He said he told them the process was unconstitutional and illegal. They spoke for about a minute, Farina said, and the officers allowed him to proceed.
Farina said he was wearing a lanyard around his neck with press credentials displayed, including cards issued by the National Press Photographers Association, the New York Press Photographers Association and the New York City Police Department.
Farina told the Tracker he believed he was targeted for being a journalist. He said he believed the officers tried to intimidate journalists.
“It's very clear and obvious all journalists were targeted that day,” he said.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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.