Minnesota has a First Amendment problem

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Authorities in Minnesota are coming under wholly deserved scrutiny for mistreating members of the media who are covering protests in Brooklyn Center and beyond.

While the state’s governor has expressed regret for the earlier incidents, including the wrongful arrest of a CNN producer, there are new concerns about what will happen later this week when a jury is expected to deliver a verdict in State v. Chauvin.

On Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” telecast, CNN correspondent Sara Sidner pointed out that Gov. Tim Walz also expressed regret last year when Omar Jimenez and his CNN colleagues were detained on live TV.

“We heard the regret before,” Sidner said. “So what changed, exactly? Nothing. Nothing changed. The police are still treating journalists [by] throwing them to the ground.” So “it should not be a regret,” she said. “It should stop. It should change.”

“Now, what they’re doing to the journalists, they are also doing to some of the protesters who had nothing to do with the violence as well, and we should speak on that as well,” Sidner added, speaking up for the constitutional rights of protesters.

Unrest has consumed portions of Brooklyn Center, about 10 miles from downtown Minneapolis, since Daunte Wright, a Black motorist, was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer during an arrest attempt on April 11.

Numerous members of the media have been harassed, assaulted, or arrested, according to a letter that was jointly signed by dozens of media outlets and filed with state officials on Saturday.

The letter disclosed that CNN producer Carolyn Sung was “thrown to the ground” and arrested by Minnesota state troopers on Tuesday night; the details of her treatment, as conveyed in the letter, are disturbing.

Sung, who is Asian-American, repeatedly ID’ed herself as a CNN journalist, and showed her credentials. The letter stated, “Despite repeatedly hearing Sung identify herself as a member of the press and tell the troopers that the zip ties were tight on her wrists, one trooper yelled at Sung, ‘Do you speak English?'”

Sung was transported to the Hennepin County Jail; patted down; fingerprinted; and “ordered to strip and put on an orange uniform” before attorneys were able to secure her release.

The descriptions of the episode provoked widespread condemnation over the weekend.

“Authorities willing to intimidate and abuse the press will treat the public at large the same way,” Mara Gay of The New York Times commented.

Later in the week, on Friday, reporters in Brooklyn Center were rounded up, forced to the ground, and photographed. “Some colleagues got pretty roughed up,” Reuters photographer Leah Millis said.

“I’ve only seen that in Afghanistan when US forces were trying to control a local population,” CNN’s Miguel Marquez said.

“Some in law enforcement clearly view reporters as part of the problem and are trying to force us to commit to their controls regardless of basic rights,” Marquez added.

On Saturday, the governor Walz joined a call between state authorities and media representatives, and he conveyed dismay and embarrassment over the mistreatment. Walz and other state officials expressed an understanding that the eyes of the world are on Minnesota right now, especially with the Chauvin verdict looming, and that they don’t want attacks on the media to be part of the story.

In a lengthy statement, the Minnesota State Police pledged to “respect the rights of the media to cover protest activity.” All of these words and claims may be put to the test soon.

On Sunday’s “Reliable Sources,” Marquez also talked about the tense moment when his crew was assailed by angry protesters last week.

“A lot of people are very angry, suspicious of the press, the corporate media, all of those things come into it,” he said.

Marquez and Sidner said they cover the protests in order to give voice to all the frustrations and pain.

“We get it from all sides,” Sidner wrote on Twitter. “A protestor who gets mad and attacks us. And then the police. This job ain’t for everybody. But it is all worth it.”