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WCCO Journalists Detained, Told To Lay On Ground During Brooklyn Center Protests

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Journalists with WCCO were detained by law enforcement officers on Friday night while reporting on a demonstration outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, where a crowd gathered to protest the police killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

WCCO's Reg Chapman reported that during the height of the chaos - which came after hours of peaceful protesting - law enforcement told him, along with other WCCO photojournalists to get on the ground. They took pictures of the journalists and checked their credentials before allowing them to continue on.

A federal judge earlier Friday evening had ruled that law enforcement were not permitted to arrest, threaten, or use physical force against journalists, after the ACLU filed a motion asking for a temporary restraining order to stop law enforcement from targeting reporters.

The night had started out peaceful; roughly 1,000 people came together to exercise their First Amendment rights, chanting and calling for the end of police violence against Black Americans. Ministers from throughout the Twin Cities prayed over the protesters, and the Freedom Fighters - a self-described elite security unit working to bridge the gap between police and community - helped feed the crowd and encouraged a calm gathering.

In all, the protest was jovial and lively.

But that changed around 9:30 p.m., when a small handful of people cut the zip ties holding together the outer layer of a fence erected in front of the police department.

Against the wishes of the majority of the crowd - people with bull horns asked people not to antagonize law enforcement or throw water bottles at them - some threw projectiles over the fence, and the outer layer was breached.

Flash bangs went off, police told the crowd to disperse, law enforcement hit the crowd with projectiles, and there were calls for medics.

Then the Minnesota National Guard approached from the south and state troopers descended from the north, sandwiching protesters in between.

It was a crazy and chaotic scene, Chapman reported, as state troopers in small vans blocked parking lots, making it difficult for protesters to get away. While some escaped, many were enclosed inside the perimeter set up by law enforcement. Their IDs were checked, and everyone who was not part of the press was taken into custody.

Roughly 100 people were arrested following the demonstration, Commissioner of Public Safety John Harrington said during an Operation Safety Net press briefing early Saturday morning. At this point, it is not known whether those people will be charged.

Gov. Tim Walz responded to the recent treatment of the press in a tweet Saturday evening.

"A free press is foundational to our democracy. Reporters worked tirelessly during this tumultuous year to keep Minnesotans informed," said Walz. "I convened a meeting today with media and law enforcement to determine a better path forward to protect the journalists covering civil unrest."

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