Reporter Arrested Covering Minnesota Highway Protest

By USANews
A protest camp in pictured Tuesday outside the Minneapolis Police Department's Fourth Precinct. Dozens of people were arrested Monday during a second day of protests over the shooting of Jamar Clark by a police officer during an apparent struggle.

A TV reporter was among the first of 42 people arrested on a Minnesota highway Monday as law enforcement broke up a protest reacting to an officer-involved shooting in Minneapolis.

As the camera rolled, Jack Highberger of local Fox affiliate KMSP-TV announced that officers had begun to clear the road. "This is the first arrest right here; it's certainly not going to be the last," Highberger said into a camera, seconds before he, too, was cuffed.

"You want to be next? Then get going," a Minnesota State Patrol officer said, hardly waiting for a response before arresting Highberger. People with cameras crowded around to snap a shot.

Unicorn Riot, a media collective that covered the protest, said its press badge-wearing live stream reporter also was among the first people arrested. The group says journalist Nicholas Georgiades had been broadcasting live footage to more than 4,000 online viewers and that the group believes he may have been targeted to "silence any vocal opposition to the official state-sanctioned narrative of events."

Journalism rights advocates say the charges against Highberger in particular clearly should be dropped.
Delphine Halgand, U.S. director of Reporters Without Borders, says detentions of reporters such as Highberger, including at other recent protests against police-involved killings in Baltimore and Missouri, appear part of "an alarming trend of curtailing freedom of the press in the U.S."
"The ability of reporters to freely report should not be hindered by arbitrary arrests," Halgand says. "We urge the U.S. authorities to not leave police abuses.

"Unfortunately we see this a lot," adds Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association. "I would hope that when the prosecuting attorney looks at this, they will dismiss the charges against this reporter, because obviously it's a matter of public concern and should be reported on."
In the meantime, Osterreicher says, he's willing to give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt, noting they did not appear to target photographers. "The police may not have not connected the dots – the fact of him having a rather large stick microphone with him being a journalist," he says. "I don't know whether the officer knew he was a journalist – the camera was some distance away."
Tiffani Schweigart, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota State Patrol, says decisions on whether to pursue charges against arrestees now are in the hands of the Minneapolis City Attorney's Office.

"All protesters will be submitted for [misdemeanor] charges of unlawful assembly and pedestrian on the freeway," she says in an email. "[The] prosecutor will review all reports submitted and make any determinations of charges to pursue or drop. That is how all investigations function, regardless of the employment of the person arrested."
A spokesman for the city attorney's office was not able to immediately supply information on deliberations.
"I would hope the Fox affiliate or someone from there called and said, 'Hey, you got one of our reporters and he should be released and you should drop the charges,'" Osterreicher says.
As of Tuesday morning, KMSP-TV had not put out a statement on the arrest.
Highberger, who tweeted he was released from jail early this morning, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The State Patrol said in a statement that more than 200 protesters clogged the major highway Interstate 94 as they protested following the shooting death of Jamar Clark, but that only 42 were arrested. Some protesters "threw bottles and rocks at squad cars causing minor damage" and "[o]ne State Patrol trooper was assaulted when a protester punched the trooper, then fled the scene," the statement said.
Minnesota police famously arrested journalists covering protests during the 2008 Republican National Convention and in 2011 settled a lawsuit from three of them. 

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