Minneapolis cop busts up KSTP camera at rally

Cops vs. KSTP

Officer busts up camera at Occupy demonstration

During a "Re-Occupy" Minneapolis demonstration on Saturday night, protesters learned from police they would not be allowed to erect tents in Peavey Plaza. After they marched in the street in protest, 12 people were arrested on Nicollet Mall for public nuisance and impeding traffic.

KSTP cameraman Chad Nelson was filming one of those arrests when a Minneapolis police officer violently shoved his camera away, sending it crashing to the ground. The incident was caught on tape.

Now station management is demanding to know why a member of the press was prevented from doing his job.

Nelson declined to comment, but his news director, Lindsay Radford, says she got a call from him just after it happened, around 11:30 p.m. She says that immediately after the shoving the camera wasn't working. She also watched the incident on YouTube.

"He's clearly shooting video of someone getting arrested. My photographer says he had no verbal warning," she says. "They were standing in the middle of the street, which is public property."

The video seems to show the same officer covering up the digital camera of a protester and then arresting him, as Nelson picks himself up in the background. Radford says Nelson's shoulder and neck were injured in the incident.

Chief Tim Dolan apologized to Nelson by telephone and issued a statement on Monday saying he's "very disappointed" by the incident. "From my preliminary review of the video regarding Mr. Nelson, the officer's interference does not appear to be necessary," he wrote.

An Internal Affairs investigation has been opened on the unnamed officer.

While other Occupy movements around the country have spurred altercations between police and reporters, this is a first in what previously seemed to be an attempt by local law enforcement not to attract any unnecessary attention from the media when confronting protesters. In the past, Hennepin county sheriff's deputies waited until dead of night to take down tents at the Government Center.

"Am I surprised?" says Radford. "I'd say more disappointed for my photographer. We're all involved in what's a heated situation and my photographer was level-headed. I would expect that everyone involved in the situation on a professional level to behave that way." —Jessica Lussenhop

Bleach Ban

In the wake of a February 21 memo banning the use of bleach as a cleaning agent in the St. Paul School District, custodians fear the decision could put students at greater risk of contracting an infectious disease.

"I have kids walking into bathrooms I cannot sanitize," says one custodian, who asked that his name not be used for fear of being fired. "Everybody signed [the memo] because we were threatened with the loss of our job if we brought bleach into the building."

The custodian says he picked up two respiratory illnesses in the month since the decision was announced, and fears worse is yet to come if they don't return to using the 10 percent bleach solution that had been standard practice for decades.

"I deal with blood, feces, and urine," the custodian says. "They have taken [bleach] away from me and haven't given me anything but a tabletop disinfectant to deal with things."

St. Paul School District Spokeswoman Toya Stewart Downey confirmed the bleach ban, explaining that the decision was made as part of an effort to make the school district more environmentally friendly.

"The impetus for this was a couple different things," Downey says. "The district was looking to go greener, and then we had parents approach us and talk about their concerns about using bleach throughout the schools."

Bleach is a skin irritant that can trigger asthma, she notes, and when combined with ammonia it creates toxic fumes.

The memo offers several alternatives to bleach, including Quickfill 2.0 and Betco Lemon.

She also rebutted the notion that the custodian's recent infections could be tied to the lack of bleach in the schools.

"It could be a coincidence," she suggests. "I don't work in the schools, but we've had our share of illnesses around here, from stomach flu to bronchitis to colds." —Kevin Hoffman

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