Screengrab of CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez being arrested on live TV Friday morning in Minneapolis. © Screengrab

Black CNN reporter, crew released after live arrest covering Minneapolis riots


Black reporter Omar Jimenez had just shown a protester being arrested when about half a dozen white police officers surrounded him.

"We can move back to where you like," he told the officers wearing gas masks and face shields, before explaining live on air that he and his crew were members of the press. "We're getting out of your way."

"This is among the state patrol unit that was advancing up the street, seeing and scattering the protesters at that point for people to clear the area. And so we walked away," Jimenez said before being told he was under arrest and handcuffed by two officers. "Why am I under arrest, sir?"

 No answer was audible.

CNN said a producer and a camera operator working with Jimenez were also arrested before the crew was released.

The arrest and brief detention came as riots erupted across the US over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in Minneapolis while in police custody on May 25, 2020.

Hundreds of National Guard troops deployed

The state's National Guard announced the 500 troops were being deployed Friday morning for peacekeeping amid signs that the anger was nowhere near dissipating.

"Our troops are trained to protect life, preserve property and ensure people's right to peacefully demonstrate," said Major General Jon Jensen of the Minnesota National Guard.

The guardsmen and women were processed into duty overnight and will be on rotating missions, supporting local and state police in peacekeeping jobs from Friday morning, the guard said.

"The National Guard will provide support to civil authorities as long as directed in order to ensure the safety of people and property," they said.

'You saw it with your own eyes'

Amid widespread condemnation of the Minneapolis police’s handling of Floyd, police officers on Friday gave no explanation for the CNN crew’s arrest.

"What gave me one bit of comfort was that it happened on live TV," Jimenez told viewers after he was released. "You don't have to doubt my story. It's not filtered in any way; you saw it with your own eyes."

The striking footage of the arrest could add to racial tension in the city and across the country, where sympathy protests have taken place.

Thursday marked a third night of arson, looting and vandalism in the Minnesota city over the death of Floyd, seen on video gasping for breath while a white police officer knelt on his neck.

"A CNN reporter and his production team were arrested this morning in Minneapolis for doing their jobs, despite identifying themselves – a clear violation of their First Amendment rights," CNN wrote on Twitter before the crew were released.

Governor apologises

CNN anchor John Berman told viewers about an hour after the arrest that CNN President Adam Zucker had spoken with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, who said he "deeply apologises" and was working to have the crew released immediately.

Walz has declared a state of emergency in Minnesota and ordered the National Guard activated. President Donald Trump suggested in a tweet that looters would be shot. Twitter hid Trump's tweet with a warning for "glorifying violence".

Protests also erupted in other major cities around the country, including Louisville, Kentucky, where police said seven people had been shot.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)