Police in the United States have been chastised for allegedly assaulting journalists during demonstrations.

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Since reporters were handcuffed, pepper-sprayed, and ordered to lay face-down on Friday, Minnesota police have vowed not to arrest and rough up reporters reporting demonstrations over the police killing of Duante Wright.

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.

 

Protesters confront law enforcement on April 11, 2021 in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Protesters confronting law enforcement at at protest in Brooklyn Centre, Minnesota on 11 April. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images/AFP

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”.

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.

A demonstrator holds up a sign during a protest outside the Brooklyn Center police station on 17 April, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

A demonstrator holds up a sign during a protest outside the Brooklyn Center police station on 17 April, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Photo: AFP

“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.

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“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.

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– Reuters

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