concert at the Target Center. I am an independent and contract
photojournalist and did not attend the concert and I'm not affiliated
with any protest groups. Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher and Saint
Paul Police Chief John Harrington have been telling the media that
Wednesday night's Rage Against the Machine concert was going to be
crazy, and that protests would surely ensue. I arrived about 45
minutes before the concert got out. Officers were already lining
Hennepin and 1st Avenues in full riot gear, waiting for the concert to
get out. Before it got out, there were mounted cops lining the
streets and cops with large wooden batons all around.
Waves of people came out, and initially peacefully made their exit
from the Target Center to their vehicles. I suspect that after
getting out of a Rage Against the Machine concert, seeing cops in riot
gear isn't going to send the right message. Minneapolis Police,
simply by presence (which is a use of force according to the use of
force continuum) provoked the crowd to protest. Cops lined the street
east, south and west. I stayed clear from police while other
journalists got in their face. The crowd gathered not around police,
but each other, and shouted expletives about republicans. Three
individuals were quite intent on bringing chaos, while another two
individuals were quite intent on not giving the police justification
The protest group started getting a bit wild, taunting police officers
who just stood there without providing orders to back away. Someone
who claimed to work for Rage Against the Machine and several people
wearing yellow "peace" jackets asked everyone to move to the
sidewalks. Target Center's private security stepped in when it was on
their sidewalk. When police moved horses away, it was the peace
activists that advised everyone that they were likely doing it with
the intent of using tear gas.
The crowd became more wild, and went down the street and into oncoming
traffic. Police took awhile to respond. I should have realized that
they were coming up with a scheme. An officer gave the order for
everyone to back away, and I immediately complied. Protesters didn't.
I switched lenses to go a further distance back to stay away from the
action. Officers guided the group down a specific path and before I
knew it, all of us were surrounded at S 7th Street and 2nd Ave S.
Officers started shooting impact rounds into the crowd that was
cornered by police from all directions. We were cornered even further
up against the building and the police moved us against a different
building, announced that we were all under arrest, and ordered us to
sit on the ground and place our hands above our heads. By that time,
I had various cards from media and journalist organizations in my
hand. Police started using plastic riot cuffs to arrest the
protesters. I saw Chief Tim Dolan standing about 15 feet from me. I
calmly said "Chief Dolan!" He approached, and I stated that I was a
photojournalist. My hands were on my head and my camera was around my
neck. The second I announced that I was an independent journalist (as
in, I sell my photographs and I don't work for a single media
organization), he waved his hand and dismissed me completely, walking
away. Another officer that was with him gave me the middle finger. I
recognized him from other events in Minneapolis, and it was quite
shocking to be disrespected and not listened to -- and by the Chief of
Police, of all people. I'm obviously not some protester from out of
town if I can recognize the Chief and call him by name. Actually, I
was taking photos of his swearing in in January 2007 at City Hall.
An officer walked over and asked the group if we had ever been to jail
before, laughing and taunting us. One officer made a crude sexual
joke in quite poor taste at someone who appeared to be under 18.
I made phone calls to friends and family while I was there, and talked
so an officer could hear me. I told a friend I was talking to that I
had nothing to do with anything that was going on and emphasized that
I was nervous. Officers heard me. They would not allow me to get
water out of my bag. When an officer approached me, I attempted to
present two cards that identify me as a photojournalist and I was told
that I was under arrest and I needed to keep my hands out of my
pockets. I was told I would be transported out of the jurisdiction to
Saint Paul, and I would wait until I'm charged. I was told that if I
was well-behaved, I might be out within 36 hours with bail and a court
appearance where I could tell the judge that I'm a journalist. The
officer took the cards, and attempted to take my camera memory cards.
He handcuffed me with plastic riot cuffs and made me sit down again
with force. He pushed me and my camera hit the ground, breaking my
lens and nearly breaking off my external flash. I have yet to
determine if there's any other damage. Another officer came over
asking, "who's that kid that doesn't want to be arrested?" I replied,
"that'd be me!"
I was grabbed along with four other people who looked like they were
scared to death. Several of the police officers dressed in riot gear
grabbed our arms and paraded us past the media, who jumped on the
opportunity to photograph us in handcuffs. They said that we were
"lucky" and they cut the plastic cuffs off our wrists and we were all
told (ordered?) not to return to Minneapolis ever again, despite my
residence being just eight blocks away in Loring Park.
I'm most disappointed by all of this because I'm so supportive of the
Minneapolis Police Department and initiatives like CCP/SAFE and beat
patrols. I am in complete support of many of the MPD's goals when it
comes to dealing with street-level narcotics, gangs and livability
crimes. I think that police officers are underpaid and
under-appreciated for the difficult and risky work they take on, and I
have a lot of respect for them. It has to be hard to solve other
people's problems day in and day out.
I've never participated in a protest in my life, and I'm a highly
peaceful person. My presence at the event was nothing more than
documenting the scene, as my camera doesn't lie. I've photographed
events from all over the political spectrum. I feel grossly violated.
Sure, I wasn't hauled to jail, but after being arrested, handcuffed,
and then paraded in front of the media without recognition of my
presence purely as a journalist, I can't pretend this is another day
of work. A KARE 11 reporter approached me and seemed to be shocked.
I ran into a couple other photojournalists who agreed with me that the
police were quite disrespectful.
Let me also say that there were people at the event that deserved to
be arrested, and should absolutely be arrested. It is not okay to
parade around Downtown Minneapolis at midnight and scare people --
republicans or not -- just trying to drive down the street. It's also
not an effective way to get a message across, but those are just my
personal opinions. Also my opinion: I'm disgusted by the way
protesters acted in Saint Paul on Monday. Being destructive to the
property of local businesses does not send a message to the republican
party, but hurts local people and businesses who might even have the
same ideologies as the protesters. But I'm getting away from the
point, which is that I'm not one of them and I wasn't listened to when
I attempted to identify myself.
I'll summarize by stating that Sheriff Bob Fletcher WANTED there to be
a protest, so he worked with Minneapolis Police to CREATE the protest.
In fact, he worked with MPD and SPPD and someone decided to bring in
the Commander from LAPD who was in charge during the last protest back
in 2000. Because they handled it so well? Cops instigated rioting
simply by surrounding the area -- many people agree with me on this.
A better strategy would have been to wait around the corner.
Protesters were cornered and arrested, and upon identifying myself as
a photojournalist, Chief Dolan deliberately and rudely dismissed me
and one of his officers flipped me off. I was refused access to
water, yelled at, intimidated, made fun of, and paraded past the media
as some sort of trophy. I was told I was not released as a
photojournalist, but because I was "lucky." I was ordered not to come
back to Minneapolis again, yet here I am at home in Loring Park. What
right does a police officer to tell me I'm not welcome in my home
I acknowledge the risks involved with being in the situation, and I
take responsibility for getting myself into the situation, but I call
on Police administration to take responsibility for inciting riots and
refusing to listen to me. I was entirely peaceful, calm and
cooperative. I can't avoid being hit with OC spray/CS (tear) gas on
accident, but I feel that I should be able to avoid being arrested and
identified as a protester. Although I wish I had escaped the area
before police surrounded it, a photojournalist has to believe in "risk
equals reward." I'm just a bit shocked at what that risk yielded on
I am beyond disappointed, violated, and I am literally sick. How am I
not to think of this event the next time I need to do something in
support of the police department? How can I ever look at a
Minneapolis Police Officer and immediately think happy thoughts of
community policing that I used to?
I want Tim Dolan and the entire MPD Administration to acknowledge the
errors that were made, and to apologize to me and those who were
wrongly arrested in a public news conference. I want to be reimbursed
for my broken camera equipment, which is essential to doing my job.
Simply being present, especially as a journalist, is not grounds for
arrest. I want officers who made lewd comments to be disciplined, and
I want our municipal government to start working for the people of
Minneapolis, which starts by evaluating police administration and
creating different law enforcement policy and urban policing
initiatives. I want violent and disruptive protesters to be charged
based on evidence or observed actions, and for there not to be large
gatherings of arrestees charged with a misdemeanor for simply for
being present at an event that had NO property damage or violence,
unlike in Saint Paul. And finally, I want city officials to join me
and others in calling for investigations of the intelligence gathering
methods, media intimidation and targeting, and preemptive arrests.
I've posted photos from Wednesday night on Flickr at
http://flickr.com/photos/diversey/sets/72157607104628450/ . I took
over 1,600 photos in just under two hours, and I'm posting just a
handful -- if Chief Dolan didn't target and disrespect journalists,
I'm sure many would support his work by providing evidence of crimes,
because I certainly have more than enough photos of that.
Apologies for the rant, but it's all of our tax dollars going to
support this reckless activity. I've said it before, and I'll say it
again: we need better police administration in Minneapolis.