Reuters photographer Leah Millis said she was one of a group of journalists detained by law enforcement while reporting on a protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on the night of April 16, 2021.
Several hundred protesters marched to the Brooklyn Center Police Department in response to the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man, by a white police officer during a traffic stop. Wright’s death, on April 11, 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.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the protest had been peaceful until around 9 p.m., when, authorities told the outlet, some in the crowd began to throw objects and attempt to break through a barrier around the police station, prompting the declaration of an unlawful assembly and orders for dispersal. At around 10 p.m., Minnesota Public Radio reported that police moved swiftly to corral the protesters and members of the press, deploying flash-bang grenades and pepper spray. According to state officials, a coalition of law-enforcement agencies, including the Minnesota State Patrol, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the Brooklyn Center Police Department, was involved in enforcement that night.
Amid the unrest, a group of journalists were detained by law-enforcement officers in Brooklyn Center and ordered to lie on the ground, according to reports given to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, noted on social media or published in other news outlets. Find documented detainments from the night of April 16 in Brooklyn Center here.
Millis posted on Twitter early on the morning of April 17 that she had been detained. She later tweeted more details, including that she was ordered to get on the ground with her hands out.
“I tried not to run because I didn't want to be tackled, then they shouted at us to get out and then they forced us to the ground with our hands out. I wear a large "PRESS" patch on my helmet.”
Millis also posted a photograph on Twitter of Minnesota State Patrol officers taking a photograph of her with a cell phone. She wrote that she and others were photographed with their identifications before they were released.
Millis referred the Tracker to a Reuters spokesperson for comment.
“Reuters condemns the actions of police against its journalist in Minneapolis on April 16,” a spokesperson said. “All journalists must be allowed to report the news in the public interest without fear of harassment or harm, wherever they are.”
Millis and other journalists were detained hours after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order barring police from arresting or using force against journalists, in response to a motion filed earlier in the week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.
The next day, April 17, more than two dozen media and advocacy organizations, including Reuters, sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz expressing concern about the detainments and other police treatment of journalists since the protests began.
A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety referred the Tracker to a statement from the Minnesota State Patrol, which acknowledged that troopers had photographed journalists, their media credentials and their identification “during recent enforcement actions in Brooklyn Center.” MSP said no journalists were arrested, though some had been detained and released during the protests. The Tracker documents detainments in the arrest category, but notes that the journalists were released without being processed.
The agency said troopers would no longer photograph journalists and their credentials, but would continue to check media credentials.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents 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.