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Minneapolis Resolves Lawsuit Over Harassment of Journalists During Floyd Protests


The city of Minneapolis has reached a settlement of $950,000 to resolve a lawsuit that claimed journalists faced police harassment and physical harm while reporting on the protests surrounding the tragic police killings of George Floyd.

A lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and pro bono attorneys, along with several others, against law enforcement. These lawsuits claim constitutional violations related to the use of force in 2020.

Multiple journalists recounted incidents of being hit by non-lethal projectiles and being corralled and detained during their coverage of protests. Jared Goyette, the lead plaintiff, recounted being struck by what he described as “less-lethal ballistic ammunition” fired by Minneapolis police.

He was fulfilling his role as a freelancer for the Washington Post and the Guardian, documenting the protests. Additional demonstrations flared up following the tragic incident in which a young Black man, Daunte Wright, lost his life after being shot by a police officer in Brooklyn Center during April 2021.

ACLU Lawsuit Targets Chemical Spray Use by Minneapolis Officers During Protests

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – MAY 31: Police arrive and use pepper spray after a man drove a tanker truck into a crowd peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd on the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River on May 31, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A large group of protesters had been marching over the bridge on both lanes before the truck drove into the crowd.

Amidst the demonstrations, certain officers were observed utilizing a chemical spray on the protesters. Additionally, the ACLU included the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in the lawsuit.

In a recent statement, Goyette expressed optimism that the case and other initiatives would contribute to a future where Minneapolis law enforcement respects First Amendment rights and treats journalists with fairness and professionalism. Goyette is currently reporting in Ukraine and Croatia.

The ACLU announced in a news release that the award, which received unanimous approval from the city council, will be distributed among Goyette, seven other journalists, and the media and communications labor union Communications Workers of America.

It’s the most recent settlement in the lawsuit. Last year, a settlement was reached that prohibits Bob Kroll, the former head of the Minneapolis police union, from serving as a police officer in three Minnesota counties for the next ten years.

The lawsuit claimed that Kroll had significant influence over the police department’s policies. Kroll stepped down from his position in January 2021. He did not acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement.

In 2022, the state of Minnesota reached an agreement to pay $825,000 and implement various policy changes to resolve its involvement in the lawsuit.

The agreement also includes provisions that prevent any interference with members of the press, ensuring their safety and freedom to report without fear of arrest, harassment, or confiscation of their equipment.

However, the city and its police department did not agree to make any reforms as part of the latest settlement, according to the ACLU.
The lawsuit remains ongoing against the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and its former sheriff, Dave Hutchinson.

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