'I'm Not Fighting': Veteran WCCO Photographer Shot With Rubber Bullets and Arrested While Covering Protests

Video footage has been released showing the moment a veteran WCCO Photographer was shot with rubber bullets and arrested, even though he clearly identified that he was working for the press.

Award-winning photographer Tom Aviles was covering the fifth day of protests over the death of George Floyd when police officers shot at him with rubber bullets. One of these bullets struck Aviles, and shortly after, he was forced to the ground by the approaching police officers who arrested him. The video captured by Aviles himself shows the whole ordeal where the photographer can be clearly heard saying "I'm from WCCO." This is the CBS owned and operated television station that broadcasts in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The video continues to record while Aviles is on the ground, and he can be heard calling for his producer, Joan Gilbertson, to come over. According to CBS, Gilbertson was told by the policeman "You've been warned, or the same thing will happen to you. Or you're next."

The assignment manager at WCCO tweeted after the event some fascinating footage, which was apparently captured by Aviles inside the back of the police vehicle.

Commissioner of Corrections Paul Schnell called Aviles' arrest "regrettable" and said that because of the nature of the protests and police tactics, "it's difficult" to identify journalists. As you can hear from the footage, Aviles identifies himself clearly and was still arrested. These events come just days after CNN's Omar Jimenez was taken into police custody during a live broadcast. Jimenez also clearly identified himself to officers and was arrested nonetheless.

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49 Comments

Erpillar Bendy's picture

What a glaring example of idiotic policing. Some police just want to prove to everybody how brutal they are. Just in case there was any doubt. That is total stupidity, paid for by our tax dollars. They don't even have a first grade understanding of Constitutional rights. Put them in communist China, or Stalin's Russia, or Nazi Germany, and they'd feel right at home doing the same job of rounding up journalists.

Notice how this militaristic style of policing has nothing to do with fighting crime. There's no sign of anybody on that street doing any looting, breaking or burning. It's just indiscriminate police violence. They arrested a peaceful journalist — totally wasting their time. What a disgraceful abuse of power, and wasteful use of resources.

T Lewis's picture

Yeah just do away with law enforcement all together we’ll be better off with out them. Be careful what you wish for.

Deleted Account's picture

Where in that comment did you read "do away with law enforcement"?

Erpillar Bendy's picture

T Lewis, Trying reading what I wrote, instead of responding to something you imagined.

T Lewis's picture

Your overall tone. Watching “journalists” taunt the police now in La on the news. I don’t buy that the guy is totally innocent he may have instigated the whole thing with a cop that’s already pissed or even scared for the story.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

What are you talking about? Did you even watch the video at the top of this page? I really don't think you did. Instead of replying to some imagined "tone", try watching the video and then tell me how this award-winning photographer "instigated" his own arrest. Go ahead. It's right up there at the top of this page. Watch till the end. Waiting for your reply.

Note that Commissioner Paul Schnell called this photographer's arrest "regrettable". He didn't try to make up a silly story about the photographer "instigating" his own arrest. But you go ahead and do that; use your imagination to come up with some fairy tale about how this photographer "instigated the whole thing".

Erpillar Bendy's picture

Predictably, there is no reply from T Lewis.

Dale Karnegie's picture

I debated with you in the other thread; but here, I agree. This is bad policing and bad police officers. They aren't giving clear instructions and they are using force where its unwarranted...pretty stupid

Alex Herbert's picture

Hiring policies, and then the culture once they're on the job, they're not looking for the best. It's the same everywhere, growing up in London I can't tell you the number of interactions I've had with petty, juvenile, violent officers where I had to try to be the rational voice of reason.

T Van's picture

The police tactics are deliberate. This is not stupidity, it is planned and intended to chill the press coverage. Authorities do not want the abuse they're illegally meting out recorded to later use against them in the courts and the court of public opinion.
This is called Fascism for those who don't recognize it.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

Unfortunately this looks a lot like fascism. If the police were proud of their work, and knew that it was lawful, then they'd want the press to be reporting their good deeds for the public to see. But too often, arresting journalists is a step toward covering up misdeeds. At best, it is a total waste of time, an example of police making themselves busy with nonsense instead of protecting life & property.

Deleted Account's picture

It's cops like this that make jobs harder for the rest of law enforcement...

Lee Christiansen's picture

Find the video evidence.
Sack those who perpetrate the offences.
Replace with better people.
Prosecute...

And do it quickly.

Deleted Account's picture

These guys are not the exception. It's the rest of law enforcement that makes the jobs of those few officers that actually stand for something other than their own egos harder.

When you look at how rampant various forms of misconduct are and how officers and entire departments try to cover for them by discrediting and ritually intimidating people who attempt to file complaints or take legal action against them, it's hard to believe the problem isn't systemic.

marcgabor's picture

Unfortunately I don't think this is an issue of a few individual rogue cops. The police are targeting journalists all over the country. This is unprecedented. You'd have to be naive not to make the connection between commander in chief calling the press the enemy and what's going on in the streets.

Deleted Account's picture

Trump's a turd, but the last time I checked, police departments don't answer to Donald Trump. There are a number of reasons why journalists might be getting targeted (assuming that they are), but I honestly don't think that Trump has much to do with it in this instance.

marcgabor's picture

I'm not trying to take sides or make this about being pro/anti Trump but you have to admit that he's the first sitting president since at least the televised news era to openly attack the media. Journalists (in the USA) weren't being attacked before he was elected and now they are. I don't think Trump is giving direct instructions but a lot of rank and file police officers are Trump supporters and hearing the president use such strong language against the media has to have an effect. knowing your actions won't be condemned by the head of the country is very meaningful.

Jim Bolen's picture

Give me a break. His repeated attacks on the media only incite violence and hatred. That's all he knows what to do.

Tony Tumminello's picture

"Commissioner of Corrections Paul Schnell called Aviles' arrest "regrettable" and said that because of the nature of the protests and police tactics, "it's difficult" to identify journalists."

What a load of crap. Look for the videos of the Vice News reporter that's forced to the ground, stating that he's part of the press multiple times, displays his press badge multiple times, and still gets maced in the face while he's prone on the ground. There's even two angles of the encounter filmed so you can see the context of what's happening.

It's not difficult to identify journalists. It's just more fun pepper spraying them unprovoked instead. The cruelty is the point.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

I agree, what a load. The Commissioner's comments just illustrate how they excuse terrible policing.

It's easy to identify journalists. Easy if you have at least half a brain and an iota or more of professional training. That police officer should be fired for outright stupidity. Allegedly fighting crime, but instead arresting a credentialed totally cooperative journalist. Wow.

With the police busying themselves with nonsense and cruelty, it's no wonder that the real criminals are getting away with burning and looting and breaking stuff.

Again, notice how there's nobody on that street engaged in any looting, breaking or burning. But the police arrested a journalist! Whoopeee!

RP UT's picture

Indeed. Imagine if somebody used the same excuse when police entered their home.

jim hughes's picture

I'm in Minneapolis. The situation here was chaotic and dangerous, with a huge aimless mob destroying businesses and neighborhoods. The Guard did a great job, no one was killed, everyone here is praising them. Lake Street was a madhouse and the Guard had orders to use rubber bullets to clear it and clear it now before things get even worse. They'd just started the sweep and no doubt their hearts were pounding. I think it's pretty naive to think you could run up in front of those guys at that moment, yelling "Yoo Hoo! I'm a Journalist!" and not get hurt. If they're claiming they didn't hear warnings or didn't know where to run, they're BSing. Cover the story, yes, but don't act like a fool and then pretend to be a victim later.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

Did you watch the video? It's State police, not the Guard. They should be arresting the people that are destroying businesses and neighborhoods, not "clearing" near empty streets like the one in this video. If people destroying buildings and neighborhoods are getting away, while journalists are getting shot and arrested, then the police are not doing a "great job".

jim hughes's picture

People are happy with the State Patrol too. It's Minneapolis PD that's the problem, which is why the SP and the Guard had to restore order. The street was very far from empty but the video guy spent all his time pointed at the cops, hoping to catch them hurting someone. Unfortunately it turned out to be him.

The situation was far beyond the point where individuals doing damage could be caught and held; a very large mob was in the street and out of control. This was day 3 of a deteriorating situation.

So easy to second guess these guys after the fact, from a safe distance, based on fragments of video. I'd say they did what had to be done in as civilized and humane a way as possible. This is not the way it would have been handled in many other places around the world.

Ok I'm done. Flame me if you wish.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

So arresting this credentialed totally cooperating journalist somehow restores order? No it doesn't. Absolutely NOT. You know it doesn't. It's stupid busywork that achieves no good whatsoever. It's the police pretending to do good work when they aren't. The bad guys (looters/destroyers) are not standing in front of a charging line of police, waiting to get arrested. They're on some other street causing damage while the policy busy themselves confronting legitimate protestors. The looters/destroyers seem to know very well how to take advantage of these bad policing methods. I am second guessing the police because there's video after video showing looters causing massive damage with zero police anywhere around, while other videos show police charging peaceful protestors to "clear" the street — that is, shut down peaceful protest. There was no "large mob" in this street. Watch the video: just a few protestors with their protest signs, running away — doing exactly what the police want them to do. No resistance, no violence, no looting, no rock throwing ... nothing criminal.

Lee Christiansen's picture

A journalist with a camera is retreating as instructed, but chased anyway and brought down.

There's a bunch of violent, out of control hotheads with rubber bullet guns out there - and they seem to have lost control of themselves. We hold these people to higher standards than this - they're supposed to be trained and able to control themselves.

At no point was this journalist exhibiting threatening behaviour, indeed we hear on the video that he was complying - even though we should be able to have on record what is happening on these streets.

Cops trying to clear the path of any camera footage...?

I compare these scenes with riots we've had here in the UK. I'm relieved to say that we were blessed with a more considered and disciplined response in any case I've seen here in the UK.

The US has people in forces that should be ousted from those organisations the second evidence like this comes to air.

marcgabor's picture

Journalists have been covering civil unrest in this country for decades and have never been targeted like this before. Now all of a sudden the authorities have a tough time identifying press? Have you been to a rally before? Even to a casual observer it's pretty easy to spot the difference between press and protesters with cameras.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

Here's another example of police who would feel right at home serving a dictatorship. Totally wasting their time arresting a peaceful, kneeling protestor. This is stupid on wheels. https://twitter.com/sweeeetdee_/status/1267319103167107072

Jim Bolen's picture

Wow. Arrested for doing absolutely nothing. Jackasses should be fired.

Michael L. McCray's picture

I have been blessed to have lived long enough to watch the press, police, and protester conflict waltz since 1968 from a variety of perspectives, protester, soldier, journalist, bystander, and spectator. Emotions run high on all sides. Now with the internet, there is an army of spectators ready to pass judgment on a single image or few seconds of video based on their biases. Now I am not passing judgment because I do the same thing, however, I realize it is a dangerous thing to do. But why are we drawn to conflict like moths to a flame?

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