A CNN crew covering the ongoing protests in Minneapolis was arrested on Friday while they were providing a live report on television.
According to CNN, correspondent Omar Jimenez, producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez were detained at approximately 6 a.m. ET near the 3rd Police Precinct that was set ablaze on Thursday night.
During his arrest, Jimenez, who identifies as Afro-Latino, identified himself as a reporter prior to being handcuffed and taken into custody. Per CNN, their crew was detained because they were told to move and failed to do so, but during Jimenez’s live report, he can be heard expressing his willingness to relocate to the arresting officers.
“We can move back to where you like. We are live on the air here,” Jimenez said. “Put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way. Wherever you want us (we’ll) get out of your way.”
He continued, “We were just getting out of your way when you were advancing through the intersection.”
In response to this incident, CNN issued the following statement:
“A CNN reporter and his production team were arrested this morning in Minneapolis for doing their jobs, despite identifying themselves—a clear violation of their First Amendment rights. The authorities in Minnesota, including the Governor, must release the three CNN employees immediately.”
As news of the crew’s arrest began to circulate, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz “deeply apologized” on a call to CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker and promised to work toward having the crew released from custody. Approximately an hour later, they were released from the city’s downtown public safety building.
“We’re doing OK, now,” Jimenez said on air, opting to provide an update on his status shortly after his release. “There was a moment, I would say, minutes after it happened that things started to sink in a little bit. The one thing that gave me a little bit of comfort was that it happened on live TV. When you talk within the community about, let’s just say what happened with George Floyd, there’s a discussion that, what’s happening isn’t new, it’s being filmed.”
He added, “That speaks to the power of having something happen on camera because you can have people speak up for you without you saying anything. That gave me a little bit of comfort knowing [CNN anchors] saw what was happening, I was living what was happening, and the country was seeing what was happening unfold in real time right before their eyes. You don’t have to doubt my story, it’s not filtered in any sort of way, you saw it for your own eyes. That gave me a little bit of comfort, but it was nerve-wracking at certain points.”
As CNN noted, this was a blatant violation of the First Amendment rights of Jimenez and his crew and seemingly a deliberate attempt to intimidate and silence the media—which we all know is one of Trump’s favorite pastimes. That’s not to say that the decision to arrest Jimenez and his crew was Trump’s call, but it’s difficult not to assume that Trump’s vile threats against protestors and condemnation of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey didn’t play a part.
It’s also important to note that a white reporter doing the exact same thing at the exact same time in the exact same area somehow wasn’t detained.
CNN’s Josh Campell, who also was in the area but not standing with the on-air crew, said he, too, was approached by police, but was allowed to remain.
“I identified myself ... they said, ‘OK, you’re permitted to be in the area,’” recounted Campbell, who is white. “I was treated much differently than (Jimenez) was.”
“Now let me just say something, and it is a statement of fact,” an unidentified CNN anchor tells Campbell in a clip posted on Twitter. “You, Josh Campbell, are white. Omar Jimenez is not.”
CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota noted the difference as well.
“It’s just impossible not to note the difference. You are a white guy. Omar Jimenez identifies as black and Latino,” she said. “Since the police didn’t give us much of an explanation for what they were doing against the backdrop of these fires burning and George Floyd’s death, it’s impossible not to note the difference here.”
With Jimenez and crew released from police custody, now comes the time to find out who it was that authorized their arrests in the first place. Because if Gov. Walz can be impassioned enough to ensure the release of CNN’s journalists, he should be equally as impassioned to hold his subordinates accountable for the crew’s unjust detainment.