Judge orders Minnesota officers not to arrest, use force against journalists

Judge orders Minnesota officers not to arrest, use force against journalists
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A federal judge in Minnesota granted a temporary restraining order that says law enforcement officers cannot arrest or use physical force against journalists covering the Duante Wright protests.

U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright issued the order on Friday and it is in effect for the next two weeks, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported.

The order states that police cannot use physical force or chemical agents against the media, or take away their press passes.

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Journalists argued in court that they were “directed by law enforcement to vacate the protest area, physically grabbed, struck by less-lethal projectiles and rubber bullets, and pepper sprayed.”

Although journalists did not have to abide by curfews, they were still required to leave areas when dispersal orders were given. The judge’s order allows for journalists to be exempt from dispersal orders, the Pioneer Press reported.

The state’s attorney general’s office argued that dispersal orders were to keep journalists safe, but the judge dismissed that argument on Friday.

“This argument is unavailing, particularly when considering the allegations, supported by declarations, that members of the press have sustained severe injuries at the hands of law enforcement in recent days,” Wright said. “These severe injuries include bruising and at least one injury requiring surgery.”

The order came as multiple journalists reported being stopped or detained by law enforcement on Friday, according to local media, with several saying they were pepper-sprayed. Many documented their injuries on social media.

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The plaintiffs in the ruling Friday are an international labor union for news media workers and a freelance journalist who has had an ongoing case since the George Floyd protests last year.

The restraining order was filed against Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matthew Langer.

The order comes amid protests over the police shooting of Wright, a Black man who was killed by an officer who said she meant to deploy a Taser. That officer resigned and has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.