U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

VICE Media producer arrested with crew while covering Minneapolis protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 30, 2020

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
Minnesota State Patrol
Unnecessary use of force?
May 30, 2020

Ellis Rua, a camera operator for VICE Media, and three colleagues were arrested on May 30, 2020, in Minneapolis for being out after curfew while covering ongoing protests, Rua told the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The protests were held in response to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis on May 25. During an arrest, a white Minneapolis Police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck and ignored Floyd’s pleas that he could not breathe. Floyd was later pronounced dead in a hospital.

Rua said that he and the VICE crew — Alzo Slade, Jika González, and Dave Mayers — were spending time with protesters at a food distribution center when they decided to follow a protest that was starting up so they could get B-roll.

Police appeared in front of the group of protesters and the journalists, obstructing their way forward, and began firing tear gas, Rua said. Law enforcement emerged from vehicles labeled as belonging to Minnesota State Troopers. They were wearing riot gear that also identified them as state troopers, according to Mayers.

When law enforcement started firing tear gas, Rua suggested the crew find a corner to put on their gas masks. Rua didn’t think the state troopers would arrest journalists with press passes. But the troopers approached the journalists and told them to get on the ground, Rua said. The group complied.

One of the officers said he would need to speak to his commander. The officer spoke with someone by phone, and then told the journalists that they were under arrest, Rua said.

“I was quite surprised,” Rua said. “We did identify ourselves as press, but they still proceeded to arrest us.”

The detention took place near Nicollet and Franklin Avenues in downtown Minneapolis, according to the citation that was later issued.

Rua was carrying a gas mask with canisters, a helmet, and a camera. The rest of the crew had other equipment including two Sony Fs7 cameras and multiple lenses, according to Rua.

Initially law enforcement used plastic ties to secure the wrists of all four crew members, Rua said. First Slade, then Mayers, and then González were walked to a police vehicle, while Rua was left waiting in the side street for what he said felt like 15 to 30 minutes before he was also brought to the vehicle.

The journalists were then taken to a police building where the plastic zip ties were replaced with metal handcuffs and they were fingerprinted, Rua said. The journalists were not allowed to make a phone call or read their Miranda rights at any point during their detention, Rua said.

Each of the journalists was given a citation for breaking curfew from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department, the journalist said. They were expected to appear in court in late October.

Eventually, Rua and Mayers were notified that the charges against them have been dropped. As of late September, Slade and González were still waiting for a similar notification.

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