CNN Crew Arrested on Live TV While Covering Fiery Minneapolis Protests

A CNN crew was taken into custody by police amid protests in Minneapolis early Friday morning during a live news broadcast. At 5:09 a.m. local time, correspondent Omar Jimenez was reporting live on an arrest happening in the area near a city police department precinct that protesters had burned and officers had abandoned overnight, CNN reports. About a block away, a fire was burning at a four-story building that had contained restaurants. Jimenez was standing in front of a long line of police officers in riot gear.

Shortly after his crew filmed the arrest, the police officers moved toward Jimenez and his three colleagues, asking them to move. Jimenez told police officers they were part of the same CNN crew and identified himself with his CNN identification card. "We can move back to where you'd like. We can move back to where you'd like here. We are live on the air at the moment," Jimenez can be heard telling the officers. "This is the four of us. We are one team. Just put us back where you want us. We're getting out of your way. So just let us know. Wherever you'd want us, we will go. We were just getting out of your way when you were advancing through the intersection. Let us know, and we've got you."

At 5:11 a.m., two officers in riot gear told Jimenez, "You are under arrest." Jimenez asked, "Why am I under arrest, sir?" as he was handcuffed and led away by police, the camera rolling the entire time. CNN photojournalist Leonel Mendez, who was with Jimenez, said he and the rest of the crew were also being arrested shortly after that. The camera then showed producer Bill Kirkos being handcuffed and taken into custody. Shortly after that, the still-rolling camera was taken away from the crew.

CNN president Jeff Zucker spoke with the governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, on Friday morning. Walz said he "deeply apologizes" for what happened and was working to have the CNN team released immediately, describing the arrests as "unacceptable." He said that the news team clearly had the rights to be there, and said he wants the media to be in Minnesota to cover the protests.

CNN criticized the arrests and called for the release of the crew members. In a tweet, the news agency called the arrests "a clear violation of their First Amendment rights."

The arrests followed a chaotic night in Minneapolis that marked the third night of protests that turned into arson, looting and vandalism over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody earlier this week. In a video of the arrest, Floyd could be seen gasping for breath while one of the four arresting officers pinned Floyd's neck under his knee for at least eight minutes. Floyd later died in police custody.

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Multiple buildings were set ablaze Thursday night, when at 4:30 a.m. Friday a large number of protesters were still out protesting near the Minneapolis police building in the 3rd Precinct. At least five other buildings in the vicinity of the station were in flames at that time, CNN reported. One of the burning structures destroyed by the fire was an events space with multiple restaurants about a block from the police station. A liquor store across the street was also burned down.

The Minnesota National Guard tweeted late Thursday night that they had activated more than 500 soldiers to St. Paul, Minneapolis and surrounding communities. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said "many of the National Guard" as I mentioned were stationed and are being stationed at locations to help prevent some of the looting that we've seen."