A Minneapolis civil rights attorney was charged with three misdemeanors after University of Minnesota police arrested him at a protest last fall.
Jordan Kushner, a University of Minnesota Law School alumnus, was arrested Nov. 3, 2015, and was charged that month with disorderly conduct, trespassing and obstruction of legal process after filming police conduct at the protest.
Kushner is now waiting for a decision from Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office prosecutor, which will decide whether the case will move forward to a trial.
About 30 people from groups including the Anti-War Committee, Students for Justice in Palestine and Students for a Democratic Society protested Israeli law professor Moshe Halbertal’s November talk at Mondale Hall.
University spokesman Tim Busse and the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office both said they could not comment on the case because it is still under investigation.
Last month, Kushner requested all communications between officers and the University about the protest, as well as records of any past misconduct by the officers. He also asked for permission to photograph Mondale Hall — even though he is banned for a year from the University’s Law School.
University officials have agreed to allow him to inspect and photograph the hall and to provide relevant communications, he said.
He said the assistant city attorney prosecutor requested the judge prohibit attorneys for the case, including Kushner, from talking to the press.
The judge denied the order, citing First Amendment legal ramifications that a gag order would have, he said, adding that requests for gag orders are uncommon in this kind of case.
Differing accounts of the protest
Kushner said he attended the lecture because he had been told there would be a protest, and he went to record police interactions with the protesters to document any police misconduct.
He said he was arrested in 1989, 1999 and 2012 after confronting police at protests or during other arrests.
A series of videos Kushner took on his cell phone and footage from a security camera outside the lecture hall show parts of Kushner’s interactions with police, including UMPD Lt. Troy Buhta asking him to leave the room and stop recording.
Video clips from Kushner’s phone do not show him shouting, as described in police reports. Security footage shows three officers leading him out, tipping him over a wall and handcuffing him.
University officials posted a list of rules outside the hall, which included that recording wasn’t allowed without approval.
Civil rights lawyer Randall Kallinen said videotaping police is legal, and the rule posted was meant to prevent recording of the lecture, not police interactions and protests.
Witnesses recall Kushner’s behavior and arrest differently, varying from him calmly recording the police to him yelling and resisting arrest.
Sami Rahamim, president of the University’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel, said he saw Kushner talking to police.
“He was sitting right behind me, and when they came to ask him to leave, he refused to get up until there was three police officers essentially lifting him out of his chair and taking him out of the room,” Rahamim said.
Coleen Rowley, a peace activist and former FBI agent who knows Kushner from past demonstrations, said she was sitting in front of him at the event and didn’t see him resisting the police, only him videotaping and telling officers he was doing nothing wrong.
She said she didn’t hear Kushner raise his voice at the lecture.
“There was a male in the 5th row, who was shouting and arguing with [O]fficer Lang about video recording the lecture,” Buhta said in a police report. “I approached
[Kushner] and told him he needed to leave because his behavior was disrupting the lecture. He stated I do not need to leave, this is a public event.”
The reports from three officers at the lecture said Kushner screamed, yelled and resisted being handcuffed when they escorted him from the hall.
Kushner said he denies the events in the police reports and said police are targeting him for his actions at other protests.