Claiming that “the press is under assault in our city,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent law enforcement misconduct directed at the news media.
The 45-page lawsuit catalogs a long list of alleged encounters between journalists and photojournalists and law enforcement officers during demonstrations to protest the May 25 death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police.
The suit says officers threatened, assaulted and, in several cases, arrested members of the media, even after they identified themselves as journalists.
Minneapolis City Attorney Erik Nilsson said in a statement, “We will review the allegations and take them seriously. We continue to support the First Amendment rights of everyone in Minneapolis.”
The suit was filed on behalf of all journalists by plaintiff Jared Goyette of Minneapolis, a freelance journalist who in recent days has written articles for several newspapers, including the Washington Post and the Guardian.
The lawsuit said that Goyette was “shot in the face with less-lethal ballistic ammunition” by Minneapolis police on May 27 while documenting demonstrations near the Third Precinct police station.
The suit cites several instances in which Star Tribune reporters also were the target of misconduct by law enforcement, although none are plaintiffs.
Teresa Nelson, legal director of the ACLU of Minnesota, said the organization has filed a motion seeking a temporary injunction to prohibit law enforcement agencies from attacking journalists and interfering in news coverage. The ACLU said it would seek a permanent injunction later.
Among those named as defendants in the lawsuit are the city of Minneapolis, Chief of Police Medaria Arradondo, state Public Safety Commissioner John Harringon, Col. Matthew Langer who leads the Minnesota State Patrol, and “John Does” described as identified officers of the Minneapolis police and State Patrol.
Also named in the suit was Lt. Robert Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation, who is cited as having made statements that inflamed the situation by attacking the “liberal media.”
Kroll did not respond for comment. Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, issued this statement in response to the suit: “The Minnesota State Patrol recognizes the importance of the media in covering the civil unrest that is occurring in our communities. When conducting law enforcement operations to restore order and keep people safe, it can be difficult for officers to distinguish journalists from those who are violating a curfew order or not complying with commands to leave an area.
“During the past week, the State Patrol has worked hard to ensure journalists who have been arrested have been released promptly upon identification. While not all of the incidents involve the Minnesota State Patrol, we are reviewing the incidents involving our troopers in an effort to prevent similar incidents in the future.”