May 29, 2020
CNN Reporter Omar Jimenez Talks About Being Arrested on Live TV During Minneapolis Protests
Last night during the Minneapolis protests & riots, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his crew were arrested live on TV by Minnesota state police. They were released this morning, and Jimenez talked about the situation. Read the interview transcript here.
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That was quite a scene of what you’ve just endured for the past hour. Can you tell us what happened?
Omar Jimenez: (00:08)
Well, we saw a lot of it play out on TV there. There seemed to be a little bit of confusion as to what was supposed to, or what was allowed to, happen. Now, well, as we were reporting, we had been in verbal contact, at least, it had seemed with some of the police officers saying, “All right, where can we be?” We played some of it as they were giving out commands for people to clear the area. And we saw that as protesters completely cleared out, and that of course came after there was an hour and a half, or at least where we were standing, where there was no police presence. So, as people came down, we saw them walking down the block, and whether we’re press or not, we wanted to make sure we were out of the way. So, we basically stepped onto the corner, is where we were.
Omar Jimenez: (00:50)
And I think the moment before the arrest actually happened was we saw at least one protest, or at least someone who was not media, run past us, and that person was cornered by… State patrol was the main unit that seemed to be there. And after that person was apprehended, they then turned toward us. Now, and that was the first moment, I can say, that police had gotten behind us. So, in a sense, we were surrounded by state patrolmen, and it seemed like Minneapolis police officers as well. But again, it was that moment where all of a sudden someone runs past, and they’re already on edge based on the absolute destruction that’s all around them, and that arrest happened just right in front of the Minneapolis Third Precinct, of course went up in flames last night.
Omar, I’m not sure you know this, but our cameras were not only rolling the whole time you were taken into custody, but the cameras continued to roll, frankly, for the entire ride to the precinct. We could see the picture for the whole time. First of all, let me just also say, Omar, what an amazing job you did throughout that. Your composure and your ability to keep your cool is a testament to your professionalism, which we already knew about, by how great of a job you’re doing covering the story on the streets there. You and your team did a terrific job. Now, what we did not here, even though we saw the transportation, is from the moment you were led away until the moment you were just released, so can you please tell us what took place while you were in custody?
Omar Jimenez: (02:23)
Well, everyone, to their credit, was pretty cordial after that happened, so it seemed… I was actually talking to the officer that was leading me away, I was like, “Hey, man, we’re going to be out here for the next few days. What is the guidance of where we should be? If you don’t want us that close, where should we be? Because we were under the impression that that was okay.” And he said, “Look, I don’t know, man, I’m just following orders.” So, I don’t know who is potentially giving that order in that particular moment, but as far as the people that were leading me away, there was no animosity there. They weren’t violent with me. We were having conversation about just how crazy this week has been for every single part of the city. And like I mentioned, a lot of these people are on edge.
Omar Jimenez: (03:03)
And as we are walking by, we saw a person on the edge of the perimeter that they had formed, and this wasn’t a protester, this was just a random, it seemed, citizen who was saying, “Hey, I need to get back into my place over there. And where were you when this neighborhood completely got destroyed?” I mean, we saw where they were. They were in the middle of what became a focal point of anger, passion, violence, even at times, and they were forced to retreat. And then, this morning, literally within a matter of minutes, we saw all of them swarm back in, clearing out these protesters from the city level, that’s where we saw the Fire Department and Police Department come in, and then the state patrol was advancing, as we were seeing, up that street toward our location.
Omar Jimenez: (03:49)
Now, where we were standing, basically to my right was where all the protesters were outside or in front of the building that was on fire, and to our left was where they were advancing. So, we were basically just going to try and step back and let them continue to advance down the street, but again, you saw what unfolded there. But as far as what happened in between, again, they were pretty cordial. Once we were in the trucks, as well, they were… And we’re downtown, obviously. This is the Hennepin County Public Safety Building here. They were all pretty good with us in conversation.
Well, that’s a relief, Omar, because you could not have been more professional. You were doing your job by the book, you presented your credentials, you told them that you were a journalist, you told them that you were with CNN, you told them you were live on the air. I mean, you did them the courtesy of explaining that we were live on the air at that moment. And I’m just wondering, after you and your crew were arrested, at what point did they… I mean, did they ever say, “Sorry, that was a mistake,” or when they released you, was there an explanation of that that had all been a big misunderstanding or a mistake and you’re allowed to report?
Omar Jimenez: (05:01)
That conversation may have happened above some of the people that we were. With for us, it was literally a situation of, “Tell me who you are me,” as far as identification purposes, then they left, and they came back and said, “You’re with CNN, correct?” “Yes.” And then, we explained the two other team members that were with me, three including the security that we had hired for this, and then they left, came back, and then let us out of the van. We were inside the van handcuffed the whole time. And then, we were sat down, waited for a little bit more, and then from there, that was when they eventually came back with our belongings that they had confiscated over the course of this. They unclipped our handcuffs, and then that is when we were led out. And again, to answer your question, there was no, “Sorry, this was a big misunderstanding, blah, blah, blah,” because it seems that conversation may have happened, but it didn’t happen with us in particular. And it’s also is the difference in jurisdiction. Sorry.
Just one more question, because it was a nerve wracking moment for all of us watching. Bakari Sellers just described watching it and saying that it was really emotional and heart pumping for him because he was scared for you, and other people watching. Given the backdrop of everything that’s happening in Minneapolis, he was scared for you at this moment when you were being taken into custody. I should also let you know that Josh Campbell, who was reporting a block or two away from you was not taken into custody. He was treated quite politely. Were you scared when this was happening? And do you have any idea why you were arrested and not Josh Campbell?
Omar Jimenez: (06:39)
Well, there was a moment, I would say, minutes after it happened, where things started to sink in a little bit. I think I don’t have to tell you, Allison or John, that sometimes when you’re in this job in these scenarios, there’s a lot of adrenaline pumping, you’re trying to focus and balance so many different factors in a case like this. I’m trying to balance what the actual story is, how the storyline is advancing while also trying to be aware of our surroundings, which at times can get dangerous. So, there’s that mentality. And then, the arrest happened. I was still trying to communicate with you all as this was going on, because I was just as confused as you. We had been showing our credentials throughout this entire week, and especially in the moments leading up to that, so I couldn’t really understand what was going on.
Omar Jimenez: (07:19)
But as we were walking away and you were taking in the entire neighborhood that had been completely decimated, again, from the passion of the protestors and, unfortunately, some of the rioting and looting that we had seen it, it did cross my mind that, “What is really happening here?” And the one thing that gave me a little bit of comfort was that it happened on live TV. There’s been this, when you talk within the community, about, let’s just say what’s happened with George Floyd, there’s always a discussion that what’s happening isn’t new, it’s being filmed. And that speaks to the power of having something happen on camera, because you can have people speak up for you without you saying anything, and that gave me a little bit of comfort knowing that you guys saw what was happening, I was living what was happening, and the country was seeing what was happening unfold in real time, right before their eyes. You don’t have to doubt my story. It’s not filtered in any sort of way. You saw it for your own eyes. And that gave me a little bit of comfort. But it definitely was nerve wracking at certain points.