Minnesota governor Tim Walz responded on Sunday to reports that state police officers attacked journalists covering the riots in a Minneapolis suburb, saying, “Apologies are not enough; that just can’t happen. “
Protests have broken out in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, following the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man who was killed by a senior police officer during a traffic obstruction. Police officers shot tear gas or pepper spray into the crowd and made dozens of arrests.
“I think we all have to acknowledge the attack on media around the world and even in our country as terrifying in recent years,” Walz said in an interview with a local CBS broadcaster. “We cannot function as a democracy if they are not there.”
On Saturday, a lawyer representing more than 20 news media organizations sent a letter to Mr. Walz and law enforcement officers in Minnesota describing a series of alleged assaults on journalists by police officers over the past week. Journalists were sprayed with chemical irritants, arrested, thrown to the ground and beaten by police officers while reporting protests, lawyer Leita Walker wrote.
The letter includes details of some of the alleged incidents, including those involving journalists working for CNN and the New York Times.
Joshua Rashaad McFadden, a freelance photographer covering the protests for The Times, said in an interview on Sunday that police moved the car he was in on Tuesday when he tried to leave the protests. They beat the windows with batons, then got into the car to force him out, hit his legs and hit the lens of his camera, he said.
“It was definitely scary – I’ve never been in a situation like this where so many cops beat me and hit my gear,” said 30-year-old McFadden.
Mr. McFadden, who is Black, said police did not believe his press cards were real until another photographer vouched for him – a situation that has happened to him and other black journalists many times, he said.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” he said, “when such a situation arises, they won’t believe anything or care about anything I say.”
Later that week, he said he was forced to the ground with other journalists and photographed by police.
A spokeswoman for the New York Times Company confirmed Sunday that Ms. Walker’s letter was the company’s response.
On Friday, a federal judge issued an injunction prohibiting police from using physical violence or chemical agents against journalists. But Ms. Walker wrote that the officials are still engaging in “widespread intimidation, violence and other wrongdoing against journalists.”
Mr Walz said in a tweet on Saturday that he has “directed our law enforcement partners to make changes that will ensure journalists don’t run into obstacles in the way they do their jobs.”
“These are volatile situations and that is no excuse,” he said during the television interview on Sunday. “It is an understanding that we have to keep getting better.”