Minnesota Governor Calls Alleged Assaults on Journalists ‘Chilling’
Gov. Tim Walz said he had told police officers to “make changes” that would allow reporters to do their jobs.,
Tim Walz, the governor of Minnesota, on Sunday responded to reports that the state’s police officers had assaulted journalists covering the unrest in a Minneapolis suburb, saying, “Apologies are not enough; it just cannot happen.”
Protests have erupted in Brooklyn Center, Minn., in the wake of the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was killed by a veteran police officer during a traffic stop. Law enforcement officers have fired tear gas or pepper spray into crowds and have made dozens of arrests.
“I think we all need to recognize the assault on media across the world and even in our country over the last few years is chilling,” Mr. Walz said in an interview with a local CBS station. “We cannot function as a democracy if they’re not there.”
On Saturday, a lawyer representing more than 20 news media organizations sent a letter to Mr. Walz and leaders of Minnesota law enforcement organizations detailing a series of alleged assaults of journalists by police officers in the past week. Journalists have been sprayed with chemical irritants, arrested, thrown to the ground and beaten by police officers while covering protests, wrote the lawyer, Leita Walker.
The letter provides details of some of the alleged incidents, including ones involving journalists working for CNN and The New York Times.
Joshua Rashaad McFadden, a freelance photographer who was covering the protests for The Times, said in an interview on Sunday that the police surrounded the car he was in on Tuesday as he tried to leave the protests. They beat on the windows with batons, then entered the car to force him out, beating his legs and striking his camera lens, he said.
“It was definitely scary — I’ve never been in a situation like that with so many police officers hitting me, hitting my equipment,” Mr. McFadden, 30, said.
Mr. McFadden, who is Black, said the police did not believe his press credentials 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, to know that “if a situation like this happens, they’re not going to believe or care about anything I’m saying.”
Later in the week, he said, he was forced to the ground along with other journalists and photographed by the police.
A spokeswoman for The New York Times Company on Sunday confirmed that Ms. Walker’s letter represented the company’s response.
On Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order forbidding the police to use physical force or chemical agents against journalists. But Ms. Walker wrote that officers were still engaging in “widespread intimidation, violence and other misconduct directed at journalists.”
Mr. Walz said in a tweet on Saturday that he had “directed our law enforcement partners to make changes that will help ensure journalists do not face barriers to doing their jobs.”
“These are volatile situations and that’s not an excuse,” he said during the television interview on Sunday. “It’s an understanding that we need to continue to get better.”