The American Civil Liberties Union announced on Wednesday that it had filed a class-action lawsuit and requested that a Minnesota court protect journalists who have been targeted by local police while covering unrest stemming from the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer last month.
“The past week has been marked by an extraordinary escalation of unlawful force deliberately targeting reporters,” the ACLU said in Wednesday’s filing.
“The ostensible leaders of our law enforcement agencies have been unable to curb this unlawful violence,” it added.
Wednesday’s suit was filed against the City of Minneapolis and its top police officials, including the city’s police chief, Medaria Arradondo. It details several instances of police violence, including the case of reporter Linda Tirado, who lost the use of one eye after an officer shot her in the face with a rubber bullet. “As we warned, if you come after our press freedoms, we will see you in court,” the ACLU said on Twitter.
Wednesday’s filing seeks protection for journalists from being targeted by the police; damages for injured journalists; and affirmation from the court that journalists are exempted from the state’s curfew, as the law indicates.
Footage released at the end of May showing Floyd saying he couldn’t breathe as police officer Derek Chauvin fatally kneeling on his neck has spurred ongoing, nationwide protests against police brutality. The demonstrations have occasionally escalated into violence as officers have clashed with protesters. In many instances, police have used excessive force, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against protesters and credentialed members of the press. On Saturday, HuffPost reporter Chris Mathias was violently arrested in New York City with his press badge clearly visible, and HuffPost reporter Phil Lewis was shot with a rubber bullet in Washington, D.C.
On Tuesday, more than 100 news outlets, including HuffPost, and a number of advocacy groups cosigned a letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press demanding Minnesota and Minneapolis “immediately implement protocols to protect reporters and ensure the public is informed.”
In announcing Wednesday’s court filing, the ACLU said it intends to file similar lawsuits in states across the country.