The Minnesota State Patrol has decided to avoid photographing journalists and their credentials and announced it would no longer restrict the locations from which reporters could cover the protests.
The statement was issued after state police officers and officers from eight other law-enforcement departments were chastised by media outlets, including Reuters, for their handling of journalists during the demonstrations.
Eight law enforcement agencies have been working together in an operation known as Safety Net, policing the protests, in the Minneapolis suburb Brooklyn Centre.
But the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said the actions of some officers has gone “beyond unlawful detention, to include outright retaliatory assault” against journalists working to inform the public – a role protected against government interference by the US Constitution.
The events led several media organisations to ask Minnesota’s governor Tim Walz to intervene, and a meeting was called between media and law enforcement organised by Walz.
On Twitter he said he hoped it would ‘determine a better path forward to protect the journalists covering civil unrest”.
Journalists must be allowed to safely cover protests and civil unrest. I’ve directed our law enforcement partners to make changes that will help ensure journalists do not face barriers to doing their jobs. https://t.co/r4s2VpGp0C
— Governor Tim Walz (@GovTimWalz) April 18, 2021
The police obstruction of journalists came even after a US District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order on Friday, forbidding them from arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists.
“Following feedback from media, and in light of a recent temporary restraining order filed in federal court, MSP will not photograph journalists or their credentials,” the Minnesota State Patrol statement said.
“Furthermore, MSP would no longer provide messaging at the scene directing reporters to safe locations to report incidents. No journalists have been arrested after being detained and released after compliance activities after presenting credentials “According to the statement.
It also stated that journalists would be removed from general dispersal orders given to protesters, and that state police would not be allowed to use chemical spray against the media.
“All journalists must be allowed to report the news in the public interest without fear of harassment or harm, wherever they are,” Reuters said in a statement.
Protests exploded after Wright was killed at a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center on Sunday. Kimberly Potter, a police officer who handed in her uniform on Tuesday, has been charged with manslaughter.
Tensions are heavy in the city as the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin nears its conclusion, with closing arguments set for Monday.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder in connection with George Floyd’s death last May.