Visiting journalists say police acted improperly

  • Article by: TERRY COLLINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 26, 2008 - 11:59 PM

They say officers searched them without permission and took their equipment. Police say they were trespassing.

With less than a week until the Republican National Convention begins, a group of visiting journalists in town to cover anticipated protests claim Minneapolis police have already given them a hard time.

Three journalists from the New York-based Glass Bead Collective said police violated their First Amendment rights by taking their hand-held video cameras, cell phones, a laptop computer and other belongings during a search outside their host family's home in northeast Minneapolis early Tuesday.

The Glass Bead Collective is a group of video journalists that looks to document incidents of police misconduct.

The group said police detained them for about an hour after asking whether they knew about a rash of car burglaries in the area.

The officers searched them without their consent and confiscated their belongings, the group said.

Police said officers observed the group trespassing in a railroad yard around 1:40 a.m. Tuesday. The group's belongings remain in police custody, and the incident is under investigation.

"We came to this city not looking for this type of trouble," Glass Bead co-founder Vlad Teichberg said during a news conference outside the Hennepin County Government Center. "What we have is a bunch of thugs running around with badges."

Bruce Nestor, the group's attorney, said he worries this could be a precursor to trouble next week. He is contemplating legal action to get the Glass Bead members' property back.

The incident comes on the heels of a recently adopted city resolution stating police may confiscate video cameras only during events such as protests if needed for evidence or if the person with the camera has been arrested.

"I'm surprised and certainly concerned by this," said Council Member Cam Gordon, who pushed for the resolution. "While I still want to get all of the details, this certainly sets the wrong tone for the convention."

The journalists said they were headed home after Teichberg and colleague Olivia Katz picked up a third member, Anita Brathwaite, from a downtown bus station when at least two squad cars approached them.

No charges have been filed against the three, police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer said.

"What the officers did was responsible," Palmer said. "We're not trying to infringe on anybody's rights. We still have a job to do. If you're coming out of a railroad yard, you're trespassing."

Teichberg responded: "They are wrong. We were not in a rail yard."

Also, three people from the local Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign were arrested Tuesday during a surprise sit-in at the Minneapolis HUD headquarters in response to a cancelled Saturday meeting with director Dexter Sydney. The three were later released.

Terry Collins • 612-673-1790

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