Minneapolis City Council approves $950,000 settlement with journalists detained or injured during 2020 unrest

A crowd of people stand in front of a line of police officers.
A crowd engages with Minneapolis police at the Holiday gas station near 36th Street East and Cedar Avenue in south Minneapolis.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News 2020

The Minneapolis City Council voted Thursday to approve a $950,000 settlement on behalf of journalists detained or injured by Minneapolis police during unrest following George Floyd’s killing in 2020. 

Floyd’s killing in May 2020 by a Minneapolis police officer sparked protests and led to arson and looting at hundreds of Twin Cities buildings. 

The journalists who were plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Minnesota allege that Minneapolis police intentionally used tear gas and rubber bullets on reporters and photojournalists covering protests or arson. They cite incidents where officers arrested journalists with press credentials or seriously injured them. 

Teresa Nelson, legal director for the ACLU of Minnesota, called the settlement a win for journalists attacked for covering the protests.  

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

“This settlement should send a strong message to both Minneapolis and all police departments that journalists who are doing their jobs shouldn’t be targeted, they shouldn’t be arrested or attacked and that we need to respect freedom of the press,” Nelson said. 

As part of the settlement, Minneapolis does not admit any wrongdoing during the unrest. The city also did not promise to make any changes to the department. Minneapolis is currently under a court-enforced agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and is expected to also come under a federal consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Nelson said it’s disappointing that Minneapolis didn’t take responsibility for its officers’ actions despite the department’s long history of using excessive force. 

“We hope that going forward though when we are seeing the police reform efforts in Minneapolis — we’re seeing the DOJ (Department of Justice) consent decree, the Department of Human Rights consent decree — that a lot of these issues will be resolved in Minneapolis,” Nelson said. 

A spokesperson for Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said they’re unable to comment on litigation.  

This newest settlement puts the city’s cost of settling lawsuits stemming from officer conduct during the unrest at almost $10 million. The settlement will be split between the eight journalists who were plaintiffs and the Communications Workers of America, which represents journalists across the country. 

Freelance photographer Linda Tirado was partially blinded after being hit in the face with a “less than lethal” projectile allegedly fired by law enforcement officers. Minneapolis later paid a $600,000 settlement to Tirado.

The ACLU and plaintiffs settled a similar case for $825,000 two years ago against the Minnesota State Patrol, who promised that troopers in the future would not attack, threaten or arrest journalists. Another similar lawsuit against the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is still pending. 

The council also approved a separate $800,000 settlement with a group of men who were arrested while trying to keep the peace after Winston Smith was killed by law enforcement in Minneapolis in 2021.