Police, Daily discuss media treatment

Joanna Dornfeld

The Minnesota Daily’s editor in chief met with high-ranking city officials Wednesday to discuss his allegations that police used unreasonable force against Daily staff covering the Sunday morning riot in Dinkytown.

Mike Wereschagin said he initiated the meeting with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, police Chief Robert Olson and 2nd Ward City Council member Paul Zerby on Wednesday to discuss how such incidents can be avoided in the future.

“I’d like to see a reason why this happened, and I want to see a concrete policy that this will never, ever happen again,” Wereschagin said.

Rybak and Olson said they welcomed the discussion.

“We asked the Daily editor to come forward with any information they have, and we will investigate that,” Rybak said.

Three Daily photographers and one reporter were sprayed with a chemical irritant and one photographer was hit with a riot stick, Wereschagin said.

Diane Cebula, a Daily photographer, said an officer sprayed her with a chemical and a second officer knocked her over from behind. When Maggie Hessel-Mial, a Daily associate editor, rushed over to help her up, an officer sprayed her with pepper spray, Cebula said.

Olson said no other media organizations have come forward with complaints. He said the police department appreciates the dialogue with Wereschagin.

“They’re legitimate concerns,” Olson said.

Olson told Wereschagin he was specifically concerned about what happened to Cebula and Hessel-Mial, Wereschagin said.

“We have a desperate problem in our police department,” Rybak said. “We need to attack that problem and we need to attack it now.”

He said many officers in the Minneapolis Police Department do a good job, but there are some who do not.

“There are many reasons to use force,” Rybak said. But it needs to be used appropriately, he said.

Rybak said citizens have different views on what constitutes effective law enforcement, and he said these opinions often vary based on race and economics.

“There aren’t going to be any easy answers,” he said.

The men discussed ways to resolve the conflict and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future, Olson said.

Minneapolis police would like to establish more regular contact with the Daily, Olson said. He invited Daily staff members to attend the bi-annual meeting between the police department and the major local news
organizations.

Olson also invited Daily staff to become involved in the After Action Report – a police investigation about Saturday’s riots, Wereschagin said.

“I was encouraged by the police chief’s willingness to involve journalists in the investigation,” Wereschagin said.

Rybak said police, elected officials and community members need to work together and discuss appropriate law enforcement. Rybak selected City Council member Robert Lilligren to lead the group.

Three University students and two other men have been charged by the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office. Their charges range from gross misdemeanor fourth-degree assault of an officer and riot in the third degree to misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Of the other 21 people who were arrested, at least 15 will appear in court on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges in the next week.