The arrest and brief detention of a CNN crew on live television in Minneapolis early this morning was a stunning blow to the First Amendment. They were literally handcuffed and led away for doing their jobs in reporting on protests over the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer.
As the video reveals, the journalists were respectful, and correspondent Omar Jimenez clearly identified himself as a reporter. He told the state police officers several times that he and his crew would move wherever they were told.
That said, what happened to Jimenez and his colleagues was more common than you might realize — and more common than it should be. Last year, we bestowed a New England Muzzle Award upon Police Chief Armando Perez of Bridgeport, Connecticut for arresting and detaining Tara O’Neill, a reporter for Hearst Connecticut Media, during a Black Lives Matter protest.
“This is a public sidewalk and I’m the press,” O’Neill later recalled telling the officer who arrested her, according to media reports. “He said, ‘OK,’ and cuffed me.”
As with this morning’s Minneapolis arrests, the misconduct by police enabled them to operate without being watched by O’Neill and her pesky smartphone. Nevertheless, she was able to film her own arrest:
In a better-known case, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were arrested at a McDonald’s in Ferguson, Missouri, during the demonstrations in 2014 over the killing of Michael Brown, a young African American man, by a white police officer.
Before that, Josh Stearns, now director of the Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund, put together a massive compilation of social-media posts documenting the arrest of journalists at Occupy protests around the country. (Here is a very small slice of what was going on from the Committee to Protect Journalists.) Storify, a tool for aggregating social media, recognized Stearns’ efforts with a “Storify of the Year” award.
Unfortunately, Storify later shut down, taking much of Stearns’ work with it.
Update. Stearns has posted a Twitter thread offering more background.
Update II. Noting that Jimenez is Black and Latino. A white CNN reporter standing nearby was not arrested.