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CNN reporter and crew arrested live on air while covering Minneapolis protest

CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his crew were arrested on May 29 by Minneapolis police officers while reporting on the George Floyd protests. (Video: CNN)
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Police arrested CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his camera crew on live television just after 5 a.m. Friday as the team reported on the Minneapolis protests following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody.

The journalists were released hours later, but not before an outcry from other journalists and viewers, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), who denounced the arrests and issued a public apology.

“I take full responsibility," Walz said during a Friday news conference. “There is absolutely no reason something like this should have happened."

Jimenez had been reporting from an intersection that had experienced destruction during the protests.

‘Never seen anything like this’: A CNN journalist’s arrest on live television shocks nation and inflames racial wounds

CNN viewers witnessed police officers surrounding the journalists as Jimenez repeatedly said they would go where ordered. “Wherever you’d want us, we will go," he said. "We were just getting out of your way when you were advancing through the intersection, so just let us know and we got you.”

Jimenez then turned to narrate the scene when an officer told him he was under arrest. Jimenez was handcuffed and led away.

The arrest, which happened during CNN’s “New Day” program, shocked hosts Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

“That is an American television reporter, Omar Jimenez, being led away by police officers,” Berman said. “He clearly identified himself as a reporter, he was respectfully explaining to the state police that our CNN team was there and moving away. … I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Police then arrested the other CNN crew members and took the network’s camera, which continued to roll.

Minnesota State Patrol later said in a statement that “in the course of clearing the streets and restoring order” at the intersection, police arrested four people, including three CNN crew members who "were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.”

CNN disputed that account in a statement, saying the journalists were arrested despite identifying themselves and that the arrest was “a clear violation of their First Amendment rights.”

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Josh Campbell, another CNN reporter who had been reporting from the Minneapolis streets cleared by police, later said on air “my experience has been the opposite of what Omar just experienced there,” and that he was told he was “permitted to be in this area.”

“You, Josh Campbell, are white, Omar Jimenez is not,” Berman said. “I do not know if that played into this.”

“What you just said crossed my mind as well about appearances here,” Campbell responded. “I can tell you I was treated much differently than he was.”

Others highlighted the race of the arrested reporter, including presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. “This is not abstract: a black reporter was arrested while doing his job this morning, while the white police officer who killed George Floyd remains free,” Biden tweeted before the charges against the former officer were announced. "I am glad swift action was taken, but this, to me, says everything.”

Gov. Walz, who said he spoke with CNN President Jeff Zucker shortly after the crew’s arrest, said journalists need to have space to cover the protests, even as authorities are clearing streets.

If community members see “a reporter being arrested, their assumption is it’s because something’s going to happen they don’t want to be seen, and so that is unacceptable," Walz said. "The protection and security and safety of journalists covering this is a top priority, not because it’s a nice thing to do, but because it is a key component of how we fix this.”

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In recent years, other reporters have been arrested in the course of reporting on the unrest sparked by the deaths of unarmed black civilians. In 2014, police in Ferguson, Mo., arrested Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and HuffPost reporter Ryan J. Reilly, who had been covering the unrest in the city following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown. The reporters, who were arrested while inside of a local McDonald’s where journalists had been working from, were charged with trespassing and interfering with a police officer, but the charges were eventually dropped.

“Newsgathering on public streets and documenting police and protesters serve an important function of the first amendment," said Tully Center for Free Speech Director Roy Gutterman. "Unfortunately, arresting a TV reporter in the aftermath of a riot or protest is nothing new, but is certainly another unnecessary development in an already sad and disturbing situation.”

Other news organizations issued statements of solidarity with CNN, including CBS News, which said “no journalist should be detained just for doing their job,” and Fox News. "We denounce the detainment of the CNN crew and stand with them in protecting the right to report without fear or favor,” said a Fox News spokesperson.

Professional associations representing journalists also expressed concern, including the Asian American Journalists Association which said in a statement that it “stands in solidarity with our fellow journalists of color, such as Jimenez, whose perspectives and life experiences are integral to coverage of these stories — and who need support now more than ever.”

Hours after his release, Jimenez was back on air, reporting live from Minneapolis.

He was asked, given the context of the protests, whether he was scared for his safety. “It did cross my mind," Jimenez said on CNN. "And the one thing that gave me a little bit of comfort was that it happened on live TV.”

But, he added, “it definitely was nerve-racking at certain points.”

This story has been updated.