The CNN team was arrested on live television amid the Minneapolis protests.
State police officials arrested a CNN reporter and several team members who reportedly aired protests live on television from Minneapolis early Friday morning.
The cable news network called the arrests “a violation of First Amendment rights.”
With tensions already mounting over the use of deadly force against George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on Monday, the arrest of journalist Omar Jimenez on television has only sparked the flames of public outrage.
Within hours of the incident, a six-minute video depicting a meeting between officials and a CNN reporter had already been viewed millions of times. In the video, Jimenez recounts the disturbing backdrop after several days of protests as a result of George Floyd’s murder.
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Jimenez, wearing a surgical mask on his face, speaks directly to two anchors at CNN headquarters as four officers approach and attempt to move him and his crew. With press credentials in one hand and a microphone in the other, Jimenez comes forward to move respectfully, even asking the authorities where to set up.
The police are silent for a moment and the answer is unknown. Two officers pass a minute to put Jimenez in handcuffs, and he says he has been arrested, while the camera continues to roll, and the episode goes on CNN.
Jimenez asks why he is being arrested, but there is no response as authorities guide him from the camera’s viewpoint. His producer is then handcuffed, leaving only the cameraman to explain to CNN headquarters what is happening.
The cameraman asks the police for an explanation: “Why are you arresting us?” He pleads. “We’re going through the message – your message … you know we’re doing our job, you all.” Police refuse to respond again, but allow him to put the camera on the sidewalk. The camera continues to record without knowing an officer, takes it and puts it a few yards away.
A CNN photographer in the area who was not arrested soon sent information to CNN anchors, saying that Jimenez and the crew had accused police of refusing to move when asked. But since the entire exchange was broadcast live to millions of viewers, the anchors were quick to point out the lie.
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Minnesota Governor Tim Walls quickly commented on the incident, and the public confirmed the release of the entire CNN team. Walls said he was “deeply sorry” and that the arrests were “unacceptable”.
But the public was not outraged by the revelation that a second CNN crew led by white journalist Josh Campbell was involved in the shooting.
Commenting on the incident, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said, “Journalists should never be arrested in this country for doing their job. The people demanding racial justice are on the streets of Minneapolis and the public has the right to see it. Public transparency is essential for police accountability. “
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These sentiments were echoed in a report by the Press Freedom Committee: “We strongly condemn the arrest of the Minnesota State Patrol, a CNN news team that included protests in Minneapolis, who responded professionally to the situation. The First Amendment protects news gathering and prohibits the use of police power as an excuse to interfere with press freedom. “
The statement continued, “The need for the public to understand the concerns of our communities and the impact of such demonstrations in Minneapolis is essential.”
The murder of George Floyd has sparked nationwide protests in cities from New York to St. Louis to Los Angeles. About 70 demonstrators were arrested Thursday night in New York’s Union Square, and hundreds of protesters flooded the streets seeking justice for Floyd.