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Photojournalist struck with crowd-control munition during Brooklyn Center protest

April 12, 2021

Minneapolis Star Tribune photojournalist Mark Vancleave was struck in the hand with a rubber bullet while covering protests in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 12, 2021.

Demonstrators had gathered in front of the Brooklyn Center Police Department to demand justice in the killing of Daunte Wright, a Black man, who was fatally shot by a white police officer on April 11.

Vancleave told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he’d arrived at the police department at around 3 p.m. to document the second day of protests. The scheduled protest ended shortly before a curfew went into effect, at 7 p.m.

“A lot of people left at that time. A lot of other protesters showed up. And things got more tense, more confrontational, more aggressive between the cops and protesters,” Vancleave said. “There was a lot of back and forth between protesters — with people throwing water bottles, fireworks, those kinds of things — and the police, responding with tear gas, concussion or flash-bang grenades, and mace.”

At approximately 9 p.m., Vancleave said, he was struck in the hand with a rubber bullet.

“I was holding my camera in front of me, and was wearing a Kevlar vest and gas mask with a large polycarbonate plastic visor when the rubber bullet struck the hand I was holding the camera with,” Vancleave said. “I had some lacerations on my middle finger and then two broken bones in my ring finger.”

Vancleave told the Tracker he was also identifiable as press by his press ID and a large yellow rectangular “PRESS” card — which the Star Tribune issued all of its journalists last year — though they were partially obscured by his coat at the moment he was struck.

Vancleave said he was working alongside a freelance videojournalist on assignment for PBS Frontline, who was able to help him receive initial aid from field medics. He said that once he was able to locate other staff from the Star Tribune, they transported him to a local hospital, where he was held overnight until he could receive surgery the following day.

“I won’t be able to hold any weight in my hand for weeks at least, and I have no idea when I’ll be able to work again,” Vancleave said. “I’m just grateful that I had some colleagues that I had paired up with for just this reason, watching each other’s backs, and had a good enough exit strategy.”

Two other Star Tribune journalists were assaulted during protests that day. 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.

A few days after he was injured, Vancleave tweeted, “I remain deeply concerned for my fellow journalists working to fairly and accurately report on the crisis unfolding in our communities — particularly as Minnesota law enforcement continues to target journalists with force and disregard [their] constitutionally protected role.”

CNN reported on April 13 that City Manager Curt Boganey was fired over the city’s response to the protest.

The Brooklyn Center Police Department did not respond to a voicemail requesting comment as of press time.

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

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