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Journalists gain protections in $825K settlement with Minnesota State Patrol

The settlement stems from a lawsuit the ACLU and several journalists filed against the patrol following racial justice protests in Minneapolis in 2020 and 2021.

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A line of police officers on bicycles in riot gear near the Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd Precinct during a Wednesday, May 27, 2020, protest against the killing of George Floyd, 46. Floyd was the man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
Christine T. Nguyen / MPR News
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MINNEAPOLIS — The American Civil Liberties Union has won protections and an $825,000 settlement for journalists alleging mistreatment by Minnesota State Patrol troopers while covering unrest and protests in the Twin Cities.

Under a permanent injunction granted by a Minnesota federal judge Tuesday, Feb. 8, the patrol is banned from arresting or using force against known journalists unless they are suspected of a crime. Journalists are exempt from police orders to disperse and officers can not seize cameras, recording equipment or press passes.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit the ACLU and several journalists filed against the patrol following racial justice protests in Minneapolis in 2020 and 2021. The ACLU and pro bono attorneys from Fredrikson & Byron, the Law Office of Kevin Riach, and Apollo Law LLC, represented the Communications Workers of America and other journalists in the case.

"During the protests, law enforcement engaged in an extraordinary escalation of unlawful force deliberately targeting journalists," the ACLU said in a news release announcing the settlement. "Officers fired hard projectiles and tear gas at journalists, ordered them to disperse even though curfews exempted the press from leaving, arrested them, and interfered with the media’s ability to observe and document the protests and the law enforcement response during the George Floyd and Daunte Wright protests."

In addition to the damages and a ban on arresting law-abiding journalists, the settlement also calls for the state patrol to require an internal affairs investigation for any allegations of media mistreatment and immediate notification of a supervisor when a journalist is detained. They'll also be required to deploy a media ombudsman and liaison during any future civil unrest.

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Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington issued a statement Tuesday evening welcoming the settlement.

“The ability of journalists to cover civil unrest in our communities must be protected and encouraged,” he said. “The hallmarks of this agreement are transparency, accountability and excellence in policing. Our agency is committed to those principles as we work with members of the media to implement the terms of this agreement.”

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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