Charges dropped against VICE Media producer arrested while covering Minneapolis protests
Charges were dismissed against Jika González, a producer for VICE Media, on Aug. 11, 2020, for violating the city’s curfew order according to filings the Minneapolis City Attorney’s office shared with the Committee to Protect Journalists.
González, along with three of her colleagues, were detained and fingerprinted for violating the city’s curfew order while documenting the first weekend of protests following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest on May 26.
According to the filing, the official charge brought against González was failure to comply with a lawful order, and it was dismissed under prosecutorial discretion.
Jika González, a producer for VICE Media, and three colleagues were arrested on May 30 in Minneapolis, for being out after curfew while covering ongoing protests.
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.
González told the Committee to Protect Journalists, a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, that she was reporting on protests in downtown Minneapolis with VICE film crew members Alzo Slade, Ellis Rua, and Dave Mayers. The crew was following protesters when police began forming a line to block the protest’s progression, González said.
“We stayed to get a few shots of police forming the line, and then the first thing of [an irritant] was launched,” said González, who referred to police when she meant Minnesota State Troopers. The crew ducked into a side alley off of the main avenue, the journalist said.
“We were thinking that police had established that line and were going to stay there because this march was very peaceful,” González said. Law enforcement then came around the corner and started yelling at the journalists to get on the ground, and they complied, she said.
González said she could see Slade and Mayer but Rua was behind her. Her colleagues were lying on the ground. González said she was kneeling on the ground with her hands up. Her mask was on halfway.
González said that an officer approached Slade, who said they were press. The state trooper glanced at his press badge before taking him away.
Troopers took Mayer and then González to a holding vehicle that was partitioned by gender. González was held with a woman who was not a journalist, she said. Rua was then brought to the other side of the vehicle to join Mayer and Slade.
The detention took place near Nicollet and Franklin Avenues in downtown Minneapolis, according to the citation that was later issued. The Tracker documents all arrests separately.
González said her hands were ziptied. A trooper removed her gas mask and ignored her request for a medical mask, she said.
Troopers put the journalists' equipment — including several cameras and microphones — into bags and took them along with the journalists to the precinct. Troopers also confiscated the crew’s cellphones, González said.
“There was no way protesters would be carrying all of those cameras,” González said.
When they got to the precinct, law enforcement deliberated over what citation they should use to process the journalists, according to González. At no point was the team read their Miranda rights, the journalist noted.
González said she again requested a surgical mask and was given one by police.
Eventually, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office charged the journalists with violating curfew, according to the citation viewed by CPJ.
As the police were walking González out of the precinct, she said one of the officers mentioned thinking that they weren’t supposed to arrest “you guys,” meaning journalists. González said another officer responded, “Well, now you can put it on your resume.”
The crew’s equipment, including their cellphones, was returned during their release and no footage was deleted, González said.
According to news reports, the media was exempt from curfew the night the VICE crew was arrested.
About a week after the arrest, González received via mail a court summons from the Hennepin County District Court for October 26, according to a copy of the summons that was seen by CPJ.
A VICE spokesperson told CPJ that the Commissioner for the Department of Corrections has said the charges will be dropped.
But as of late September, González told CPJ that she had not yet received any notification of dropped charges.