CNN's Omar Jimenez and his crew were released from police custody on Friday morning after being arrested on live TV while covering the protests in Minneapolis.
Jimenez had been broadcasting live from the scene on Friday for CNN's morning news program, New Day, reporting on the third night of protests in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a police officer pressing his knee into Floyd's neck.
Jimenez spoke to CNN anchors Alisyn Camerota and John Berman after his release and said "there seemed to be a little bit of confusion" as to where he and his crew were supposed to be, but that he and his crew had been in communication with officers about where they were allowed to stand while reporting for the network. "As [the police] came, people came down, we saw them walking down the block. Whether we were press or not, we wanted to make sure we were out of the way, so we basically stepped onto the corner." Per Jimenez, a non-media person then entered the area and was apprehended by police, at which time the police turned their focus to Jimenez's reporting team, which included producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez.
"It was that moment where all of a sudden someone runs past, and they're already on edge based on the absolute destruction that's all around them, and that arrest happened right in front of the Minneapolis Third Precinct, which, of course, went up in flames last night," Jimenez said, referencing the fact that protesters set fire to the building, which had already been abandoned by police officers.
The arrests of Jimenez and his crew were captured by a CNN cameraman and broadcast live. The footage shows that they were detained by police despite Jimenez, who is African American and Hispanic, identifying himself as a reporter and telling the approaching officers they could move wherever his crew was directed. The officer's response was muffled by a gas mask, but Jimenez continued, "Wherever you'd want us, we will go. We were just getting out of your way when you were advancing through the intersection, so just let us know and we got you."
Another officer was then shown holding Jimenez's microphone, as the camera turned back to him, and Jimenez began explaining the scene to viewers, saying, "This is a scene here playing out in Minneapolis. This is part of the advanced police presence that we saw come over the course of really minutes when the local police showed up … with the fire department … 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…"
At that point, the officer who'd held his microphone and another placed Jimenez under arrest and began to handcuff him. Jimenez asked why he was being detained, and one of his crew members reminded the officers that they'd previously identified themselves as CNN reporters. Jimenez was soon after escorted away from the cameras, and CNN anchors Camerota and Berman continued to provide commentary as the camera operator continued to capture the scene. The police then proceeded to detain other members of the crew as they continued to broadcast.
"We're just passing along the message, your message," the cameraman said upon being approached. "We're just doing our job, just like you are." At that point, his camera had to be placed on the ground, and the rest of Jimenez's crew was detained by the Minneapolis state police.
According to CNN correspondent Abby Phillip, a white CNN journalist, Josh Campbell, was also on the scene in Minneapolis but was not arrested after being approached by police and identifying which network he represented.
My other colleague @joshscampbell is also on the scene in Minneapolis. He just reported that police approached him, asked him who he was with, he said CNN. And they say “ok, you’re good.” This is minutes after Omar, who is black and Latino, was arrested nearby.— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) May 29, 2020
In a statement issued shortly after the incident, CNN said of the arrests, "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."
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.— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) May 29, 2020
Jimenez and his crew were arrested shortly after 5 a.m. and released around 6:30 a.m. local time. Jimenez said that after he was taken into custody, he attempted to communicate with the arresting officers about where he should be standing next time and was told, "Look, I don't know, man, I'm just following orders." Jimenez added, "As far as the people that were leading me away, there was no animosity there. They weren't violent with me."
Berman later reported that CNN's Jeff Zucker spoke to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, who said, "It was totally unacceptable and totally inadvertent what happened. They clearly had a right to be there. We want the media there to cover this. It is never acceptable for this to happen. The governor accepts full responsibility."