More Protests and More Arrests

In Minneapolis, it's more of the same

I’m Scott Nover. Welcome back to Pressing, a newsletter about press freedom. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you can do so here and receive this letter in your inbox every Tuesday morning.

This is the 70th issue of Pressing and it’s great to have you with me. Please send me feedback, thoughts, suggestions, and tips at sgnover@gmail.com.


More Protests and More Arrests

The last couple of weeks have felt eerily familiar. As the Derek Chauvin trial has been underway, new protests have sprung up after new police murders of Black Americans. New protests means new arrests for peaceful protesters and journalists covering them.

First, let’s take a look at the Chauvin trial. David Bauder at the Associated Press wrote a lovely piece about the emotional toll the trial has taken on Black journalists. “I guess I have sort of compartmentalized what is happening,” Minneapolis Public Radio reporter Brandt Williams told him. “It’s like when a first responder comes across a scene that is bloody. You can set aside your feelings and do your job.”

Another reporter quoted in that story is CNN’s Sara Sidner.

Sidner, who is doing yeoman’s work covering the Chauvin trial, has also reported live on air from the protests that sprung up in Brooklyn Center, Minn., right outside of Minneapolis, after police killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright. But Sidner had a tense, on-camera moment with a protester who felt frustrated with the media narratives around the protests.

“What I think about this? All the press and all the shit y’all do makes this worse,” the unnamed man said to Sidner, later accusing the media of “twisting up the story,” though he didn’t specify how.

On CNN’s Reliable Sources this Sunday, Sidner explained the role of journalists covering protests. “We're out here to tell the story... we're just reflecting what is happening in society,” she said.

Sidner continued: “The media, whether you call it mainstream media or not—everyone has their own little TV station and they’re all broadcasting all the time,” she said, holding up her iPhone. “So, attacking us isn’t doing a whole lot of good.” She conceded that television cameras can have some negative externalities in protest zones, but said it’s her job to tell the story of what’s happening on the ground.

Last year, after George Floyd’s murder, I reported on the mass arrests of journalists covering the nationwide protests. In the wake of Wright’s killing, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has recoded at least nine assaults of journalists, six arrests and multiple seizures of equipment from those covering the recent protests.

Adam Gray, a British photojournalist, was “pushed to the ground, handcuffed, and cited with failure to follow a lawful order” on Apr. 13. Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Andy Mannix was hit in the foot with a less-lethal round. And a three-person Fox News team was detained the next day.

One of the most disturbing charges comes from CNN producer Carolyn Sung, who said state troopers grabbed her by her backpack, “threw her to the ground, zip-tying her hands behind her back” as she attempted to leave the scene. One trooper yelled “Do you speak English?” at Sung, who is Asian American and she was taken into custody. At the nearby jail, she was “patted down and searched by a female officer who put her hands down Sung’s pants and in her bra.” The allegations by Sung are one of many cited in a letter sent by attorney Leita Walker of the firm Ballard Spahr on behalf of more than 25 news organizations including the AP, The New York Times, and BuzzFeed News.

Additionally, a number of journalists were forced onto the ground Friday night while covering the protests and were not released until police photographed their faces and press credentials.

This happened just hours after a federal judge in Minnesota issued a temporary order forbidding the state patrol from using force against journalists.

By Sunday, Governor Tim Walz said he was embarrassed about how police treated journalists covering the protests.

Often people—even fellow journalists—belittle the outcry about injustices toward press, remarking that journalists are no more important than peaceful protesters. In a way, I agree. With the exception of administrative carveouts for journalists that allow us to bypass curfews and other restrictions, journalists and protesters alike enjoy First Amendment protections. And, as Sidner remarked, it feels like little separates journalists from everyday citizens.

I’ll conclude with two thoughts on this matter. First, professional journalists are just doing their jobs. They may or may not feel impassioned one way or another about the protests they are covering, but they need to be free to move about and cover the events as they unfold. Second, I see abuses toward journalists as a tip-of-the-iceberg issue.

If credentialed journalists are treated this poorly, you can easily imagine how police treat everyone else.


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Bainum Loses Key Partner in Tribune Bid

A much-praised deal to rescue Tribune newspapers from the clutches of Alden Global Capital—a firm notorious for cutting resources for journalists to boost profit margins—appears to have fallen through on Monday.

The rival bidder, billionaire hotel magnate Stewart Bainum, was mounting a serious bid to buy all of the Tribune papers and sell most to local investors while retaining ownership of his hometown newspaper The Baltimore Sun, Bainum lost a key investment partner in the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss. With Wyss out of the picture, The Chicago Tribune and Poynter reported that the deal is currently unlikely to happen.


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