L.A. Times reporters attacked by Minnesota troopers will settle lawsuit for $1.2 million

Two journalists who were cornered and attacked by the Minnesota State Patrol as they covered protests over George Floyd’s murder for the Los Angeles Times will soon settle a lawsuit with the state for $1.2 million. The pair, one current and one former L.A. Times employee, alleged the troopers violated their 1st Amendment rights.

The settlement stems from a violent May 30, 2020, incident, when staff photographer Carolyn Cole and Molly Hennessy-Fiske, then The Times’ Houston bureau chief, were in Minneapolis covering the community’s response to Floyd’s murder by former Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

Minnesota’s governor had issued an executive order for a nighttime curfew in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but the directive exempted law enforcement, emergency personnel and news media.

On May 30, after the curfew went into effect, the two reporters were covering a protest when, they said, state troopers ordered crowds to disperse.

Even though they were wearing credentials, carrying media equipment and identified themselves as press, the journalists said, the troopers then backed them and other media personnel into a corner against a wall and began firing projectiles and pepper-spraying the group.

“Being attacked by the Minneapolis State Patrol four years ago was an experience no other journalist should have to face,” Cole said in a statement. The photojournalist was pepper-sprayed and suffered a corneal abrasion in her eye. Hennessy-Fiske was bloodied after being hit multiple times by blunt projectiles.

“I hope this ruling, upholding our 1st Amendment rights, will help to protect other photographers and reporters trying to do their jobs,” Cole wrote. “I appreciate the support of my colleagues and the hard work of our attorneys who fought for this positive outcome.”

The two veteran journalists have reported for decades on dangerous conflicts and from war zones across the globe but said they had not been attacked in such a way by police until that evening.

“During my nearly 25-year career, I have covered numerous law enforcement agencies and protests in various states and overseas. This was the first time that I was attacked by authorities,” Hennessy-Fiske, who joined the Washington Post in 2022, wrote in a statement.

The state of Minnesota and the reporters are expected to sign the settlement agreement this week for a total of $1.2 million. The reporters will split $200,000, and the remaining $1 million will cover attorneys’ fees for the Minnesota law firm representing the journalists.

The attorneys agreed to represent the reporters on contingency, meaning they would seek their fees from the state of Minnesota if they prevailed in litigation.

The state of Minnesota did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement. The Minnesota State Patrol did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hennessy-Fiske said the troopers “attacked not just us, but also 1st Amendment rights, including the right of the press to cover protests.”

“That’s why we sued them. And that’s why we prevailed,” Hennessy-Fiske said. “I hope that this settlement serves as a deterrent and protects other journalists. Law-abiding reporters and photographers should never be blindsided, assaulted and injured by law enforcement for doing their job.”

Original News Source Link – LA Times

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