I promise not just Memphis…
“The lawsuit was based on the existence of a “City Hall Escort List” created by Memphis police* and mostly filled with names of Black Lives Matter activists to be flagged by police if ever on City Hall grounds. However, after deposing key police officials and collecting hundreds of pages of documented evidence, ACLU lawyers learned that this was just a fraction of what was going on. Based on court documents the ACLU filed this week in the case, they also found out about these actions:
The “City Hall Escort List” not only flagged the names of certain Black Lives Matter-affiliated activists, but it also included “associates in fact”—people connected to those activists via social media, prior arrests, or “often seen at unlawful assemblies with” them.
Police prepared “joint intelligence briefs,” or JIBs, that initially were about protests against police violence in Memphis, but quickly became a dossier of any kind of anti-police violence activity happening across the nation, namely “any of the organizations that arose out of Ferguson” or that were part of the Black Lives Matter network, even it had nothing to do with Memphis.
These intel briefings weren’t just shared within the police department; they were also shared with Shelby County sheriff and government officials, the county school district, the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Military, the Memphis Light, Gas, & Water municipal utility company, the Tennessee Valley Authority (a regional electricity utility company), and, curiously, the private companies FedEx and Autozone.
The police used “social media collator” software, such as Geofeedia and NC4, to easily search and monitor open-source data and other social media “chatter” concerning protest activities.
Police also set up a dummy social media account under the name “Bob Smith” to access information and correspond with people whose social media profiles were private and not accessible to the public.
Undercover and plain-clothed officers used this intel to monitor African American-hosted events and activities even if they weren’t protests—like flash mob dance rallies. Among the events the police monitored in stealth mode: several black church meetings; a memorial service for Darrius Stewart, a teenager who was shot and killed by a Memphis police officer in 2015; a black-owned food truck festival; and a gathering at a local park where an organization gave out free book bags and school supplies to students.”
How Memphis Police Spied on Activists
As ACLU lawyers prepare for an upcoming trial with the Memphis Police Department, the things they’ve learned about the law enforcement agency’s surveillance practices have “surprised” them.