MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN) filed a lawsuit against local law enforcement overnight Tuesday after reports of journalists being targeted and attacked while covering the George Floyd protests.
RELATED: Latest George Floyd News
According to ACLU-MN, over the past week Minneapolis Police and the Minnesota State Patrol have engaged in “unlawful force deliberately targeting journalists.” The petition alleges that journalists have been tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, shot by rubber bullets and even arrested without cause.
WCCO’s award-winning veteran photographer Tom Aviles was struck by a rubber bullet and taken into custody by the State Patrol Saturday night. He was with veteran producer Joan Gilbertson. They both identified themselves clearly as members of the local media and WCCO journalists.
Aviles was released from custody later that evening.
“Law enforcement is using violence and threats to deter the media from vigorously reporting on demonstrations and the conduct of police in public places,” said ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson. “Our community, especially people of color, already have a hard time trusting police and government. Targeting journalists erodes that public trust even further.”
The ACLU-MN is asking for a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to stop law enforcement from attacking and targeting journalists, as well as damages and a declaration that police conduct violated several U.S Constitutional Amendments.
“Without a free press, we can’t have a free society,” said attorney Kevin Riach with Fredrikson & Byron. “The press protects us all by keeping us informed about the activities of our government. When the government violently represses journalists in violation of the Constitution, we have a duty to speak out and protect the press in return.”
The lawsuit alleges that Minneapolis Police have a history of unconstitutional actions against journalist and the department is failing to train, supervise and discipline officers over journalists’ due process violations.