A CNN reporter and camera crew covering the protests in Minneapolis overnight were arrested on live TV on Friday morning.
They were released after more than an hour in custody, after CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker spoke to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who apologized and said the arrests should not have happened, the network reported.
CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez told the network’s anchors after his release that he and his crew had tried to move out of the way of officers before the arrests. A protester ran by at that moment and was arrested, and shortly afterward the CNN crew was also taken into custody, Jimenez said.
Shortly after his release, Jimenez tweeted a photo of him behind the camera. “And we’re back,” he wrote.
The network reported that the arresting officers were from the Minnesota State Patrol. The reason for their arrests was not clear.
“There was no animosity there; they weren’t violent with me,” he said of the arresting officers, adding that one officer said, “I’m just following orders.”
In a statement, Minnesota State Patrol said that “in the course of clearing the streets and restoring order at Lake Street and Snelling Avenue, four people were arrested by State Patrol troopers, including three members of a CNN crew. The three were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.”
CNN said the account was untrue, pointing out that the encounter was caught on live TV. “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.”
Jimenez and the crew could be seen being taken into custody around 5:15 a.m. local time, although what appeared to be Jimenez’s media credentials were visible on him.
“A CNN reporter & 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, incl. the Governor, must release the 3 CNN employees immediately,” said a statement from CNN after the arrest.
Other news media organizations and groups condemned the arrests, including MSNBC, which said in a statement that the CNN journalists “were simply doing their jobs in a tough situation on the ground in Minneapolis.”
“This is a time when the work of journalists continues to be necessary to inform and educate the public,” MSNBC said. NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News and MSNBC.
A statement from the Society of Professional Journalists said the arrests of the crew was a “clear abridgment” of press freedoms. “These journalists work ethically — and often in harm’s way — to bring important news to the public. The reporters’ unwarranted arrest is inexcusable,” the statement said.
The arrests came after a third night of protests in the Twin Cities area over the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
The officer did not move for at least eight minutes, at which point paramedics carried Floyd away. He was later pronounced dead.
On Thursday night, protesters in one area of the city converged on the police department’s 3rd Precinct, where the four officers involved in Monday’s incident were based. The four officers were fired the day after Floyd’s death.
Police had evacuated the building shortly after 10 p.m. after demonstrators forcibly entered and “ignited several fires,” police spokesman John Elder said.
Fires burned on both sides of the police station as demonstrators pushed down temporary fencing and occupied the building. Officers fired tear gas from the ground and a rooftop. Buildings on nearby blocks were also on fire.
Businesses across the Twin Cities boarded up their windows and doors, as looters broke into a Target and a T.J. Maxx. The T.J. Maxx was later reported to be on fire.
Walz signed an executive order Thursday activating the National Guard, saying the order was needed after “extensive damage to private property occurred and peaceful protests evolved into a dangerous situation for protesters and first responders.”