Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

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Demonstrators press against a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. – Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, in suburban Minneapolis say officers have harassed and assaulted them despite a federal order to leave them alone.

U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright issued a temporary restraining order Friday prohibiting police at the protests in Brooklyn Center from arresting journalists or using force against them, including flash-bang grenades, nonlethal projectiles, pepper spray and batons, unless they know the person committed a crime.

The order also prohibits police from forcing reporters to disperse along with the rest of the crowd and from seizing their equipment.

But USA Today videographer Jasper Colt tweeted that he and other reporters were forced to lie on their stomachs Friday evening while police photographed them and their credentials before letting them leave.

“We condemn the actions of the police in Brooklyn Center in the strongest possible terms,” USA Today Publisher Maribel Perez Wadsworth said in an email to The Associated Press on Saturday. “Requiring journalists to lie prone on the ground and photographing their credentials are purposeful intimidation tactics. To be clear, we will not be intimidated or deterred in fulfilling our First Amendment right and responsibility to hold power to account in our reporting.”

Freelance photographer Tim Evans told the AP that officers surrounded protesters after a 10 p.m. curfew passed. They charged into the crowd and started pepper-spraying and tackling people, he said.

Evans said one officer punched him in the face and tore off his credentials, forced him onto his stomach and pressed a knee into his back.

“I was yelling ‘press.’ He said he didn’t care and to shut the (expletive) up,” Evans said.