A group of journalists will now be $825,000 richer after the state of Minnesota agreed to pay up in a settlement announced on Tuesday. The group brought a lawsuit forward in June 2020, alleging that Minnesota State Patrol officers harassed and attacked them while they covered the George Floyd and Daunte Wright protests.
According to the Associated Press, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and the state’s Department of Public Safety announced the settlement, which also includes a federal injunction banning MSP from attacking, threatening or arresting journalists and more.
“This injunction sends a message that freedom of the press is an ideal the United States continues to hold as one of its core values, and while the legal system is imperfect, I am glad there is still some semblance of accountability to address attacks like this,” said video journalist and plaintiff Ed Ou, according to Huff Post. “I hope this case sets the precedent that any assault of a journalist is one too many.”
Here’s more from AP:
Several journalists reported being struck by less-lethal munitions, herded and detained while covering protests. After Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by an officer in Brooklyn Center in April, the city’s police station was surrounded for several nights by protesters.
Tim Evans, a freelance photographer, described to The Associated Press how officers surrounded protesters after a 10 p.m. curfew passed, then charged into the crowd and began pepper-spraying and tackling people.
Evans said he was punched in the face, his credentials were torn off and an officer believed to be a Hennepin County sheriff’s deputy forced him to his stomach and knelt on his back.
Other journalists posted photos and videos online showing police detaining them while checking their credentials, and in at least one case spraying chemical irritants.
The ACLU said other portions of the settlement require that the State Patrol be trained on treatment of the media and First Amendment rights.
Litigation continues against other defendants, including the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County.
According to Huff Post, the settlement also includes changes to department policy that make violating “freedom of the press” considered as “serious misconduct,” body cameras for all officers by June 2022, an independent review of all complaints from journalists against police filed during the protests and a requirement for police to clearly display their name and badge while responding to unrest.
“We firmly believe in First Amendment rights and the role of a free press in protecting society and upholding our democracy,” said Pari McGarraugh, an attorney with Fredrickson & Byron, one of three law firms representing the group of journalists, according to Huff Post. “Providing impartial information to the public about demonstrations, protests and other conflicts between law enforcement and the public is at the heart of journalism, and the right to witness and report must be protected and upheld.”