Minneapolis authorities on Wednesday released three of four Kentucky photographers who were arrested and charged with rioting while covering a street demonstration at the Republican National Convention earlier this week.
The Kentuckians said they planned to start for home later Wednesday, though they were still trying to get a fourth photographer released and recover cameras and other possessions confiscated by police.
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James Winn, Ed Matthews and Britney McIntosh, all associated with the Kentucky Kernel student newspaper at the University of Kentucky, were arrested Monday afternoon, along with Nathan Weber, a graduate of Western Kentucky University's photojournalism program.
Winn, Matthews and McIntosh were released from custody Wednesday morning and the felony rioting charges against them were dropped "pending further investigation," said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union.
"I expect that the charges will stay dropped and that will be the end of it," Samuelson said.
Weber, however, remained in jail late Wednesday afternoon, and the others were trying to arrange $1,000 bail for him, Winn said by cell phone from Minneapolis.
Weber, who is charged with gross misdemeanor rioting, apparently suffered cuts or scratches to his face when he was arrested, according to Samuelson and Winn. Samuelson said the ACLU is trying to get the charge against Weber dropped.
The Minnesota ACLU has offered to provide legal assistance for the Kentuckians and about 340 other people who have been arrested since the convention began, Samuelson said.
Winn is the photo adviser to the Kentucky Kernel; Matthews and McIntosh are student photographers.
Kernel Editor Brad Luttrell said the three were not on assignment for the newspaper, but had gone to Minneapolis to gain the professional experience of covering a national political convention. They apparently planned to publish their written observations and some of their pictures on a blog linked to the Kernel's Web site.
Weber has been photographing the convention on a free-lance basis.
Matthews said Wednesday that he, Winn, McIntosh and Weber were taking pictures of street demonstrators about a block from the Republican convention site when they became caught up in a mass arrest about 5 p.m. Monday.
"There were kids in the street causing a big scene and riot police were trying to get them to disperse," he said. "We saw that things were getting pretty bad and we tried to get out ... but the police kind of corralled everybody in a parking lot, told us to get on the ground and started tying handcuffs on us."
Matthews said he displayed two media badges and told the officer handcuffing him that he was with the news media, to no avail.
"There were people with cameras getting arrested left and right," he said.
Matthews said he thought Minneapolis police probably handled the situation aggressively because some other demonstrators had smashed windows and slashed police car tires earlier Monday.