A group of human rights lawyers say they have documentation on local law enforcement agencies surveilling members of the Movement for Black Lives. They now want federal agencies to reveal what information they’ve collected.
A lawsuit filed on Oct. 20 by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Case Western Reserve University School of Law against the FBI and Department of Homeland Security complains that the agencies refuse to disclose documents about the their surveillance of activists.
In July, Color of Change and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the information from the federal agencies. However, the organization said the agencies have not responded.
Revelations that state and federal law enforcement agencies used counter terrorism tactics against protesters came to light over the summer. The Intercept reported, based on a Freedom of Information Act request, that the Department of Homeland Security had been monitoring protesters since the Ferguson, Missouri, demonstrations of 2014.
“Government is supposed to protect our rights, not suppress our freedom—and yet for decades we’ve seen our government engage in a number of illegal surveillance practices that do just that,” said Brandi Collins, campaign director at Color Of Change.
Collins added: “Despite their denials, it is clear the Department of Homeland Security and FBI are continuing their disturbing legacy of employing secretive surveillance tactics with murky legal parameters to chill the Movement for Black Lives, along the way targeting individuals in a number of terrifying ways.”
The lawsuit alleges that the surveillance began with the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Since then, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have continued coordinated monitoring of the protesters. This surveillance, the suit alleges, violates the protesters’ constitutional rights and targets individuals because of their race and political views.