Unicorn Riot journalist detained, microphone damaged while covering Brooklyn Center protest

April 14, 2021

Niko Georgiades, a journalist with the nonprofit media outlet Unicorn Riot, said he was detained by police while covering a protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 14, 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.

Georgiades told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that shortly before midnight, he and other journalists were near the Lutheran Church of the Master, a short distance up Humboldt Avenue from the police station. He said that police had earlier issued a dispersal order for an area near the police station.

Georgiades said the National Guard, which had been in Brooklyn Center to assist law enforcement, were loading up and leaving with their vehicles. A group of people were shouting at the National Guard vehicles and antagonizing them, Georgiades said, which appeared to prompt the Minnesota State Patrol to decide to make arrests.

Georgiades said as a line of the troopers started running toward him, he turned to run as well. After he started running, Georgiades said he slowed down and stopped to identify himself to police as a journalist.

In a video posted on Unicorn Riot’s website, Georgiades can be heard identifying himself as a member of the press as an officer comes up to him and tells him he’s under arrest.

“For what? I’m press” Georgiades says. “I’m not doing anything, I’m press.”

An officer shouts, “stop resisting!” Georgiades told the Tracker that at that point he had his camera in one hand and the officer had straightened out his other arm behind him.

Georgiades responded, “I’m not resisting, I’m press.”

He said that while officers were detaining him, one pulled a wireless microphone out from his pocket, threw it on the ground, and kicked it.

Georgiades said his wrists were restrained in cuffs and he was brought over to where journalists Naasir Akailvi and Tracy Gunapalan, of the social media news outlet the Neighborhood Reporter also were being held.

Georgiades said police photographed the three journalists’ faces and press credentials. He said he was wearing a press card that identified him as a journalist with Unicorn Riot. Police told the journalists they took the photos so that they would not be detained again.

Georgiades said he was detained for less than 15 minutes in total.

After he was released, he said he went back to retrieve his microphone. He said he asked an officer where it was. The officer yelled at him when Georgiades asked why the equipment had been thrown, but did tell him where to look.

Georgiades said he found the microphone under some bushes. He said the mic flag, a label attached to the microphone which has Unicorn Riot’s logo on it, was missing. Yellow foam that covers part of the microphone was damaged.

The Minnesota State Patrol didn’t respond to a request for comment.

On April 16, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order barring the Minnesota State Patrol from arresting or threatening to arrest journalists. In a statement in response to the court order, MSP acknowledged that the agency is prohibited from enforcing dispersal orders against journalists.

“While journalists have been detained and released during enforcement actions after providing credentials, no journalists have been arrested,” the MSP statement said.

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.

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

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