Multiple journalists on the ground in Minnesota said they were teargassed and subject to other attacks by police on Saturday evening, a day after the widely condemned arrest of a CNN reporter live on air.
Los Angeles Times journalist Molly Hennessy-Fiske, who was reporting outside the Fifth Precinct in Minneapolis, said she was with a group of about a dozen journalists when the Minnesota State Patrol “fired tear gas canisters on us at point blank range.”
“I was saying: ‘Where do we go?’ They did not tell us where to go. They didn’t direct us. They just fired on us,” she said on video, adding that she was hit in the leg.
She posted a video on Twitter from inside a building where she took shelter after police cornered her and others. She said the group clearly identified themselves as journalists.
MSNBC journalist Ali Velshi said he was also hit in the leg by a rubber bullet, adding: “State police supported by National Guard fired unprovoked into an entirely peaceful rally.”
Two member of a Reuters TV crew were hit by rubber bullets and injured when police moved into an area occupied by about 500 protesters in the southwest of the city shortly after the 8pm curfew.
Footage taken by cameraman Julio-Cesar Chavez showed a police officer aiming directly at him as police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd.
“A police officer that I’m filming turns around, points his rubber-bullet rifle straight at me,” Chavez said.
Minutes later, Chavez and Rodney Seward, Reuters security adviser, were struck by rubber bullets as they took cover at a nearby gas station.
On footage captured as they ran for safety, several shots are heard ringing out and Seward yells: “I’ve been hit in the face by a rubber bullet.”
Seward is seen in later footage being treated by a medic near the scene for a deep gash under his left eye. Both men sustained injuries to their arms, and Chavez was hit in the back of the neck.
The pair were clearly identified as members of the news media: Chavez was holding a camera and wearing his press pass around his neck, while Seward was wearing a bulletproof vest with a press label attached.
A photographer with WCCO, a local CBS station, was also arrested on Saturday night, taken into custody by state patrol.
The station published video of the arrest, which showed the photographer, Tom Aviles, attempting to follow police’s orders, asking the officers where he should go and repeatedly saying he was with WCCO, until police took him down to the ground and arrested him.
Aviles was also hit with a rubber bullet, the station reported, adding: “We’ve called our CBS attorneys, and they’re working on freeing him.”
WCCO’s article on the arrest said veteran producer Joan Gilbertson was also with Aviles, and that a patrolman told her: “You’ve been warned, or the same thing will happen to you. Or you’re next.”
Gilbertson picked up Aviles’ camera and recorded what happened.
State patrol did not immediately comment on their claims.
In Los Angeles, at least two reporters also said they were hit by police while covering the demonstrations.
In Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday a television reporter yelled: “I’m getting shot” as she was seen live on camera being hit by what appeared to be a pepper ball.
The Louisville Metro Police Department has apologized for that incident.
The New York Times said that the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press had received about 10 reports involving journalists during the recent protesting, ranging from assaults to menacing.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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