U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Swiss journalist shot at with crowd-control munitions amid Minneapolis protests

Incident Details

May 30, 2020

While covering the fifth night of protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota, three Swiss journalists were shot at with crowd-control munitions shortly after the 8 p.m. curfew went into effect on May 30, 2020.

Journalists were specifically exempt from the curfew by Gov. Tim Walz’s order. The curfew followed protests in response to a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the United States since the end of May.

Shortly after 8:30 p.m. in Minneapolis, officers fired foam rounds at the journalists after they held up their press passes and yelled that they were members of the media.

Massimiliano Herber, the Washington-based television correspondent for RSI (Radiotelevisione svizzera), an Italian-language channel of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, told the Tracker in an interview that he and videographer Jean-Pascal Azaïs had been reporting on protests downtown with Gaspard Kühn, a Washington-based correspondent for RTS (Radio Télévision Suisse), the public broadcaster’s French-language channel. Neither Azaïs nor Kühn could be reached for comment.

Police had begun to throw tear gas and shoot foam rounds at protesters, according to Herber. Some of the tear gas wafted toward the Swiss journalists, stinging their eyes.

As the journalists attempted to reach their car, he said, they found police lines on either end of the block, preventing them from moving.

Standing in the middle of the road, the journalists held up their press passes issued by the U.S. Congress and shouted, “Media! Media! Press!” toward the police and asked if they could pass by to reach their car. Azaïs was holding a small video camera. They had taken a couple steps forward, Herber said, when the officers told them to “back up”. The officers then began to shoot at the journalists, firing off four or five foam rounds, all of which missed the journalists, Herber said.

They were able to flee to the safety of a nearby parking lot, but when they tried to move, the officers again opened fire, firing two to three foam rounds, Herber said. Eventually, with the help of a local resident, they found a safe route back to their car.

The officers in the area were from the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol, Herber said, but he was not sure who fired the rounds.

The broadcaster filed a complaint about the matter with the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland on June 1, Herber said.

Requests for comment on these incidents sent to the Minnesota State Patrol and the Minneapolis Police Department were not returned.

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.

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