A crew of CNN reporters were arrested early Friday morning in Minneapolis for … well, it’s not totally clear.
Correspondent Omar Jimenez, producer Bill Kirkos, and camera operator Leonel Mendez were taken into custody by Minnesota State Police while reporting on street closures that followed a night of protests over the death of George Floyd. The period prior to the arrests and the arrests themselves were broadcast live on the network.
As seen in the video, Jimenez clearly states to law enforcement that the crew will comply with any directions. “Put us back where you want us,” Jimenez says. “We are getting out of your way. Just let us know. Wherever you want us, we will go.”
Jimenez then described the scene before he is told he is being put under arrest and his hands are zip-tied behind his back. He asks why he is being arrested to no apparent response, after which he is led away and Kirkos and Mendez are arrested.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 29, 2020
The journalists were released later Friday morning, and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz reportedly apologized to CNN President Jeff Zucker. Jimenez went back on the air shortly after his release, noting that law enforcement was “not violent” with him, and that one of the officers told him they were “just following orders.”
“I am thankful that it happened on live TV, so that you are able to see it,” Jimenez added. “I lived it, and people around the country were able to watch and see how it unfolded so there is no doubt as to what happened.”
Though the CNN crew identified themselves as members of the media prior to their arrest, Minnesota State Police wrote on Twitter that they were let go once they were “confirmed to be members of the media.” CNN disputed the claim.
This is not accurate – our CNN crew identified themselves, on live television, immediately as journalists. We thank Minnesota @GovTimWalz for his swift action this morning to aid in the release of our crew. https://t.co/3cvtsqbbWz
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) May 29, 2020
“It was clear they were members of the media,” Dr. Courtney Radsch, advisory director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, tells Rolling Stone. “They could have turned on their phones and live-streamed CNN to see the coverage live. It’s really incredulous that they were not able to confirm that those were individual members of the media except by arresting them in handcuffs. It’s really beyond the pale for behavior by a police department in the United States.”
The arrests represent an unsettling breach of the freedom of the press at a time when both the First Amendment and the news media are under attack from the White House. “It was pretty shocking,” Radsch says. “This is not the behavior we are used to seeing in the United States. It is not in line with First Amendment protections for the press and it infringes on the public’s right to be informed.”
No official explanation has been given for arrest. The crew members were reportedly told they were detained because they refused to move, despite video footage showing the crew’s willingness to relocate.
This post will be updated as more information becomes available.