The Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union reached a settlement with state police following attacks on journalists covering protests of the George Floyd and Daunte Wright police killings.
Under the agreement, reporters that were injured by the Minnesota State Patrol were awarded a total of $825,000 and a federal judge approved a permanent injunction that prohibits state police from arresting, threatening or using physical force or chemical agents against journalists, ACLU-MN said in a Tuesday press release.
The court order, which is in effect for six years, also banned MSP from ordering journalists to disperse from the scene of a protest. State police were barred from seizing or damaging reporters’ recording devices, and would now be required to wear body cameras, the ACLU said.
In addition, troopers must now undergo training about the media’s First Amendment rights, and any allegations of free speech suppression would be considered “serious misconduct,” under the court order.
The settlement stemmed from a June 2020 lawsuit brought on behalf of journalists alleging mistreatment by state police and their law enforcement partners amid the widespread protests and riots that followed Floyd’s police murder in Minneapolis.
Lead plaintiff Jared Goyette, a freelance reporter who was covering the protests for The Washington Post and The Guardian, was “shot in the face with less-lethal ballistic ammunition” by police on May 27, 2020, lawyers said.
Author Linda Tirado was blinded in one eye after being shot by police, according to the complaint. MSNBC’s Ali Velshi was also fired on by cops who told him they “don’t care” about his press status, the lawsuit claimed.
“I’ve been hit because I’ve been in the wrong place before. I’ve never been aimed at so deliberately so many times while I was avoiding it,” Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson said, according to the lawsuit.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs said the settlement was a crucial victory to protect the constitutional rights of the press.
“The Court’s ground-breaking injunction will hold state law enforcement accountable and require them to respect the First Amendment, rather than use violence and threats that deter the media from covering protests and police conduct,” said ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson.
“We need a free press to help us hold the police and government accountable. Without a free press, we don’t have a free society, and we can’t have justice.”
Injured Canadian video journalist Ed Ou celebrated the judgment, saying that the actions of Minnesota police empowered “authoritarian governments in other parts of the world” to “act with impunity.”
“I hope this case sets the precedent that any assault of a journalist is one too many,” Ou said.
Minnesota State Patrol officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.
The settlement was reached by Fredrikson & Byron, the Law Office of Kevin Riach, and Apollo Law LLC on behalf of the injured journalists and media labor union Communications Workers of America.
With AP wires