A cameraman in Minneapolis became a part of the story during an Occupy demonstration Saturday night after a police officer shoved his camera to the ground. The Minneapolis police chief called the incident "stupid" and said the actions of the officer are not endorsed by the police department.
In a YouTube video of the incident, a police officer is seen pushing KSTP-TV cameraman Chad Nelson’s camera out of his way as he films the arrest of Occupy demonstrators. The camera then falls off of Nelson’s shoulder and crashes onto the pavement. The camera was temporarily inoperable and the footage shot that night was lost. About a dozen people were arrested during the march near downtown Minneapolis, but Nelson was unable to use the camera to film the scene.
Additionally, Nelson was treated on Sunday after sustaining signs of whiplash, said Lindsay Radford, the news director at KSTP, the ABC affiliate covering the Twin Cities.
“We feel it’s important that a message is sent that this isn’t acceptable behavior for the police,” Radford said. “We are all professionals on the scene and we have to behave that way and so do the police.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Timothy Dolan expressed disappointment after viewing the video. In a statement released Monday, he called the officer's interference unnecessary and said that officers were instructed to "not take individual actions unless they are warranted for personal safety."
An internal investigation is pending but Dolan said the officer will be held accountable for his actions.
Peaceful events turned chaotic on Saturday evening after members of the Occupy movement took to the streets. The demonstration, coined "ReOccupy Minneapolis" by organizers, aimed to reestablish the movement's presence in two locations — Loring Park and Peavey Plaza in the city's center. After some back and forth between police and protesters, officers warned demonstrators that their tents, banners and tarps were considered a public nuisance and in violation of the Minnesota statute.
The state's public nuisance ordinance states that a person is found guilty of the misdemeanor offense if they unreasonably annoy, injure or endanger "the safety, health, morals, comfort, or repose of any considerable number of members of the public." It is also a violation of the law to interfere or obstruct any passage, whether that be a road or waterway, used by the public.
After being asked to leave Peavey Plaza, the group of demonstrators marched down Nicollet Mall around 10 p.m., where 12 people were arrested. According to Dolan, the police department generally tries to assist these demonstrations to make sure it's a safe environment, but once protestors refused to leave the streets arrests had to be made. No journalists were arrested.
In 2008, Amy Goodman the host of Democracy Now! was arrested along with about 40 other journalists during the Republican National Convention while covering protests outside the convention center in St. Paul. Goodman and two other journalists sued, and a $100,000 settlement reached in October required police to develop a training program to help officers better deal with the media.
Minneapolis Police Deputy Chief Scott Gerlicher said that since the 2008 incident, the department has implemented extensive training for officers working around the media. The ongoing officer training focuses on rules of engagement, media access and the ever-growing presence of citizen photographers and bloggers, he said.
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