In a now-viral video posted to Twitter, VICE reporter Michael Anthony Adams shared an encounter with Minneapolis police during protests on the night of May 30. The video shows Adams announce that he is with the press multiple times before an officer commands he lie on the ground. By his account, Adams was on the ground when an additional cop came up to him and sprayed him with pepper spray. During the video, Adams’s press credential is clearly visible and he announced he was with the press immediately before he was pepper-sprayed.
The video has been viewed over 2.2 million times on Twitter. It’s unclear who shot Adams with pepper spray in the video. It’s also unclear who else was present during the encounter and if police sprayed protesters or additional members of the press corps while they were on the ground.
Bystanders Have Recorded Police Firing Pepper Spray at Point Blank Range on Numerous Occasions During the Protests
On May 30, Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counselor of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, posted a video on Twitter of a black boy with his hands up standing in front of police before an officer reached for the boy, pulled down his mask, and pepper-sprayed him at point-blank range. According to Ifill, the video was recorded in New York City and the officer was from the New York Police Department.
A similar scene played out in Baltimore when a black man slowly approached a group of officers. An officer sprayed the man with pepper spray at point-blank range. The man began backing away before a second officer pulled him to the ground by his hair and arrested him. A group of protesters began approaching the scene before police walked out and sprayed pepper-spray at the crowd.
According to Sabre Red, a popular pepper spray company that sells to police and civilians, most pepper sprays have a range of up to 12 feet. In an article by the National Institute of Justice from May, 2019, pepper spray was deemed less reliable and more dangerous to officers than other modes of non-lethal force. That assessment was made given evidence from the ordinary line of duty and was not specialized in large protests and crowd-control. In 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that pepper spray constituted excessive and unreasonable force when officers used the spray on passive protesters at close range. In that instance, police applied pepper spray with Q-tips in addition to spraying at point-blank range.
Accounts of Police Interactions With the Press Have Become Increasingly Hostile
A number of journalists have reported hostile interactions with police during protests in Minneapolis and elsewhere. On May 29, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez was arrested on air by Minneapolis police. On May 30, Christopher Mathias, a reporter for the Huffington Post, was arrested while covering the protests in New York City, according to a report from the Huffington Post. In Minneapolis, MSNBC reporter Ali Velshi was tear-gassed on air.
On May 30, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, a journalist with the Los Angeles Times, reported that police at the 5th Precinct in Minneapolis advanced toward protesters and at least a dozen members of media before firing on them at point-blank range. Hennessy-Fiske claimed that the media identified themselves before the police fired tear gas canisters and that she was struck in the leg with a rubber bullet. Her video account of the interaction has over 1.7 million views.
On May 30, Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell called the arrest of credentialled journalists “regrettable,” according to WCCO.