U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

WCCO photojournalist detained while covering protest in Brooklyn Center

Incident Details

April 16, 2021

Multiple journalists for Minneapolis CBS affiliate WCCO were detained by police while covering protests in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on the night of April 16, 2021.

WCCO reporter Reg Chapman told an anchor in a segment that night that he and other members of the news team had been detained as 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 was 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 on other news outlets. Find reports on the detainments from the night of April 16 in Brooklyn Center here.

In the live news segment on the 16th, Chapman said the entire news crew was among those detained and released after showing press credentials. The video played live footagevideo, apparently filmed from pavement-level, of multiple Minnesota State Patrol troopers. In a story on its website the following day, WCCO noted that Champman and “other WCCO photojournalists'' were told to get on the ground. The Tracker has documented Chapman’s detention here.

Chapman and WCCO did not return requests for comment, and the Tracker has not been able to verify the identity of the WCCO photojournalists.

Chapman told the anchor they were detained when one group of Minnesota National Guard troops approached protesters from the south while a group of Minnesota State Patrol troopers approached from the north, forming a perimeter around the crowd.

Law enforcement recognized their press credentials but ordered journalists to the ground, Chapman told the anchor in the video. He said officers checked everyone’s IDs and anybody who wasn’t a member of the press was put in handcuffs.

In the video, Chapman said police checked his and others’ IDs and took their photos. He said that they were waiting for the rest of the WCCO crew to be released.

Chapman and other journalists were detained hours after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order barring state law enforcement 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 sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz expressing concern about the detainments and other police treatment of journalists since the protests began. CBS signed the letter on behalf of WCCO.

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 that though journalists had been detained and released during the protests, no journalists were arrested. The Tracker documents detainments in the arrest category but notes that the journalists were released without being processed. MSP didn’t respond to a request for comment specifically about the detainment of Chapman and the WCCO crew.

The agency said troopers will no longer photograph journalists and their credentials, but will continue to check media credentials.

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].