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A Black CNN Reporter And His Crew Were Arrested Live On Air At The Minneapolis Protests

The three people, who repeatedly identified themselves as members of the media, were later released after the governor intervened.

Last updated on May 29, 2020, at 10:09 a.m. ET

Posted on May 29, 2020, at 9:38 a.m. ET

CNN

A black CNN reporter and two members of his production team were arrested live on air early Friday morning in Minneapolis while covering the heated protests sparked by the death of another black man, George Floyd, in police custody in the city on Monday.

In video of the moment before the arrest, reporter Omar Jimenez can be heard complying with officers and asking where police would like them to stand.

"Put us back where you want us," Jimenez told the officers. "We are getting out of your way, so just let us know. Wherever you want us, we will go."

Jimenez then continued reporting describing the scene, until two officers handcuffed him and told him he was under arrest.

"Why am I under arrest, sir?" Jimenez asked the officers, before they led him away.

Minnesota police arrest CNN reporter and camera crew as they report from protests in Minneapolis https://t.co/oZdqBti776

"You’re arresting him live on CNN. We told you before that we are with CNN," a member of the production team said.

The team continued to report, saying that Jimenez "clearly identified himself as a reporter" and "was respectfully explaining to the state police that our CNN team was there and moving away as they would request."

The police then arrested the crew members, who placed the camera on the ground in order to continue broadcasting live.

CNN identified them as producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez.

A CNN reporter & 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, incl. the Governor, must release the 3 CNN employees immediately.

On Twitter, CNN confirmed the arrests, which it called "a clear violation of their First Amendment rights" and called for them to be immediately released.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz apologized to CNN president Jeff Zucker, saying he "accepts full responsibility" and was working to have the team released.

"It was totally unacceptable and totally inadvertent what happened. They clearly had the right to be there, the CNN team," Walz said in a statement, which was read live on air.

Less than an hour later, CNN tweeted that they had been released from custody.

Minnesota State Patrol confirmed the three arrests on Twitter, stating that they were "released once they were confirmed to be members of the media."

In the course of clearing the streets and restoring order at Lake Street and Snelling Avenue, four people were arrested by State Patrol troopers, including three members of a CNN crew. The three were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.

But CNN tweeted that the police statement was "not accurate."

"Our CNN crew identified themselves, on live television, immediately as journalists," the network tweeted.

Hours after he was released, Jimenez was back on the air. He said the arrest "definitely was nerve-wracking at certain points," but that "the one thing that gave me a little bit of comfort was that it happened on live TV."

"You don’t have to doubt my story. It’s not filtered in any sort of way," Jimenez said. "You saw it for your own eyes, and that gave me a little bit of comfort."

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. I am glad swift action was taken, but this, to me, says everything.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, criticized the arrest in a tweet and said he was glad Jimenez was swiftly released.

"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 said.

Following the arrests, CNN reporter Josh Campbell, who is white, said on air that he "was treated much differently" by police while covering the same protests in the same area.

"My experience has been the opposite of what Omar just experienced there," Campbell said.

The National Association of Black Journalists condemned the arrest, with its president, Dorothy Tucker, calling it "unfathomable and upsetting to witness this structural racism in real time."

"We are relieved to see Omar has been released, but we are still disturbed by the apparent violation of First Amendment rights that are the bedrock of journalism," Tucker said.

Correction: Omar Jimenez's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.

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