Photojournalist threatened, assaulted by Minnesota State Patrol while covering Brooklyn Center protest
Minnesota State Patrol troopers assaulted and threatened to arrest independent photojournalist Chris Tuite while he documented protests in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 16, 2021, according to a letter to a judge by the ACLU of Minnesota.
Demonstrators had gathered in front of the Brooklyn Center Police Department following the killing of Daunte Wright, a Black man, who was fatally shot by a white police officer on April 11. On April 16, Minnesota District Judge Wilhelmina Wright granted a motion for a temporary restraining order barring all local law-enforcement agencies from arresting, threatening to arrest, using physical force against or seizing the equipment of journalists documenting the demonstrations.
ACLU of Minnesota’s Legal Director Teresa Nelson sent a letter to Judge Wright the following day, saying: “Last night, hours after the TRO took effect, the State Defendants escalated the level of assault and harassment of journalists to an intolerable degree.”
Tuite was listed among the journalists affected in the ACLU letter, which Tuite confirmed in an interview with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
Tuite told the Tracker that he was taking photos of Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies arresting freelance photojournalist Tim Evans when he was suddenly confronted by other law-enforcement officers.
“I was taking a photo of an officer kneeling on Evans’ back and that’s when I got grabbed,” Tuite said. “Someone was verbally threatening me and then an officer grabbed me from behind and told me that I was under arrest.” Tuite said that the officer pulled him hard enough to rip the neck of his shirt.
“As soon as that happened another cop came over and grabbed me by the arm and ripped me away from the first cop and told me to go north, which is what I had been trying to do anyway,” Tuite said. “I got around the corner of the apartment complex to the north and got jumped by five more officers, one put pepper spray right in my face and screamed, ‘What the fuck do you not understand? Go fucking north. This was your one free pass. Are you fucking stupid? Go now or I’ll arrest you.’”
Tuite was ultimately directed to a “media checkpoint” at a nearby gas station, where members of the press had their faces, press passes and state identifications photographed before they were permitted to leave the area.
“To get out of their kettle, we had to take off our gas masks and helmets and hand them our media passes and IDs. They took photos of our faces up close and then of our IDs and media passes,” Tuite said. “They told us nothing of what they were going to do with the photos, and they essentially brushed it off as, ‘We just want to make sure you guys are legit.’”
Tuite told the Tracker that his press pass was around his neck and he was carrying several cameras, and that he was certain the officers were aware he was a journalist as they specifically said to him, “Media: Get out of here!”
The Minnesota State Patrol didn’t respond to an emailed 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.