Police in Minneapolis released a Black CNN reporter who was led off in handcuffs along with his film crew while reporting live on television early on Friday morning during violent protests in the city.
Officers gave no explanation as they escorted reporter Omar Jimenez away. He had just shown a protester being arrested when about half a dozen police officers in gas masks surrounded him. More than an hour later, the crew was released.
“What gave me one bit of comfort was that it happened on live TV,” Jimenez told viewers after he was released. “You don’t have to doubt my story – it’s not filtered in any way; you saw it with your own eyes.”
Thursday marked a third night of demonstrations in the Minnesota city over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, seen on video gasping for breath while a white police officer knelt on his neck.
The protests have featured the burning of a police precinct and businesses.
The striking footage of Jimenez’s arrest could add to racial tension in the city and across the country.
“A CNN reporter and 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, including the governor, must release the three CNN employees immediately,” CNN wrote on Twitter before the crew were released.
CNN anchor John Berman told viewers about an hour after the arrest that CNN President Jeff Zucker had spoken with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, who said he “deeply apologises” and was working to have the crew released immediately.
#NABJ condemns the arrest of Black reporter @OmarJimenez live, on air. It is unfathomable and upsetting to witness this structural racism in real time. We are closely monitoring this situation. | @NABJ https://t.co/Rj4LPMyZbh
— Dorothy Tucker NABJ (@Dorothy4NABJ) May 29, 2020
The arrest was condemned by Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association of Black Journalists. “It is unfathomable and upsetting to witness this structural racism in real time. We are closely monitoring this situation”, she said in a tweet.
Jimenez said the crew had been standing on a street for about an hour and a half before police activity kicked up. They moved onto a corner to get out of the way, he said.
On air, Jimenez told the officers wearing gas masks and face shields that he wanted to know where to move to get out of their way and explained he was a member of the press.
“This is among the state patrol unit that was advancing up the street, seeing and scattering the protesters at that point for people to clear the area. And so we walked away,” Jimenez said, before being told he was under arrest and handcuffed by two officers. “Why am I under arrest, sir?”
Walz, expected to have a news conference later on Friday, has declared a state of emergency in Minnesota and ordered the National Guard activated.
President Donald Trump suggested in a tweet that looters would be shot. Twitter hid Trump’s tweet with a warning for “glorifying violence”.
I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
Protests also erupted in other major cities around the country, including Louisville, Kentucky, where police said seven people had been shot.
Floyd’s brother, Philonise, has urged protesters to be calm. “I don’t want them to lash out like that, but I can’t stop people right now. Because they have pain. They have the same pain that I feel,” he said in an interview with CNN.
“I want everything to be peaceful, but I can’t make everybody be peaceful. I can’t. It’s hard.”