The Potluck

Los Angeles Times journalists sue Minn. State Patrol over injuries sustained during George Floyd protests

By: - May 26, 2021 2:26 pm

Los Angeles Times photojournalist Carolyn Cole is assisted after being pepper sprayed by Minnesota State Patrol last summer. This photo was submitted as part of a lawsuit against the State Patrol.

Two Los Angeles Times journalists are suing the Minnesota State Patrol for injuries they sustained while covering protests last May in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Derek Chauvin.

Houston Bureau Chief Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Carolyn Cole, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, were among a group of journalists who were assembled near the Minneapolis Police Fifth Precinct protests on May 30, 2020.

They are suing three unidentified State Patrol troopers, as well as Joseph Dwyer, a State Patrol captain and Timothy Salto, a lieutenant.

The suit alleges violations of First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and demands a jury by trial to determine compensatory and punitive damages.

According to the lawsuit, State Patrol officers who were clearing out protesters advanced on the group of journalists, deploying pepper spray. Hennessy-Fiske was hit with blunt-impact projectiles at least five times according to the suit. Hennessy-Fiske suffered many bruises and was left bloodied, according to photos included in the lawsuit.

Cole was temporarily blinded after getting directly sprayed in the eyes with pepper spray, which left her with chemical burn and a corneal abrasion. She also experienced back pain and an injury to her elbow.

The group were clearly identifiable as members of the press, the suit says, carrying notebooks, camera equipment and press credentials.

“None of the defendants or any other officers issued any warnings to the press group that force would be used before they started firing,” the lawsuit reads.

Gov. Tim Walz had deployed the National Guard and issued an 8 p.m. curfew but exempted news media who were allowed to continue covering the police response to the protests and riots.

Hennesy-Fiske and Cole have both covered domestic protests and foreign war zones.

“But, neither of them had ever been fired at by police until they reported in Minneapolis in May 2020,” the lawsuit reads.

A request seeking comment from a State Patrol spokesperson was not immediately returned.

The lawsuit comes weeks after Minnesota law enforcement mistreated journalists following the killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center.

Journalists successfully secured a temporary restraining order against Minnesota law enforcement, who were barred from dispersing journalists covering the protests in Brooklyn Center Wright’s killing.

Still, within hours of the restraining order being granted, State Patrol assaulted journalists and detained them before processing them, taking photos of their credentials and faces, an action later criticized by Walz.

“The foregoing amply demonstrates that the State Patrol does not care about the First and Fourth Amendment rights of the media and the general public,” the suit said of the recent actions.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez was a senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.