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Minneapolis settles lawsuit with journalists attacked by police after George Floyd’s murder

NBC video and photojournalist Ed Ou, one of the plaintiffs, was pepper sprayed and shot with a less-lethal projectile. Photo courtesy of ACLU of Minnesota.

By J. Patrick Coolican, Minnesota Reformer

The Minneapolis City Council approved a settlement Thursday with journalists attacked by police during the aftermath of the George Floyd murder.

The journalists, who were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and pro bono attorneys, won nearly $1 million in the settlement, though the city and the Minneapolis Police Department did not agree to make any reforms as part of the settlement.

The city has already paid out millions to demonstrators and journalists injured during the protests. An independent auditor who conducted an after-action review of the response said there was “a vast, vast void in consistent rules of engagement or control” during the unrest.

In a separate suit brought by another journalist, a federal judge wrote “the allegations plausibly suggest an unconstitutional custom carried out by (Minneapolis Police) officers of targeting journalists for unlawful reprisals.”

Reporters who covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan said they never faced treatment like what was on display during the protests following the deaths of Floyd and Daunte Wright, who was killed by a Brooklyn Center police officer in 2021, according to the ACLU.

The settlement money approved Thursday will be split between freelance journalist Jared Goyette, who has been a Reformer contributor, and seven other journalists and the Communications Workers of America, according to an ACLU news release.

“I do not feel a sense of victory, but rather hope that this case, alongside others and the impending consent decree between the city and the Department of Justice, will lead to a future where Minneapolis law enforcement is less likely to recklessly infringe upon First Amendment rights and assault and intimidate journalists,” Goyette said.

Police fired a projectile at Goyette’s face, hitting his eye and nose, and then tear-gassed him.

The plaintiffs previously settled with the state Department of Public Safety and Minnesota State Patrol, including $825,000 for journalist plaintiffs and policy changes to prevent future assaults.

In April 2023, journalists reached a settlement with former MPD union head Lt. Bob Kroll, who agreed not to serve for a decade in Hennepin, Ramsey and Anoka Counties, or with the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training.

The litigation against against former Sheriff Dave Hutchinson and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office — the sole remaining agency under lawsuit — continues.

Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.