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25 May, 2017

NYPD faces suit over surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists

The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and activists with Millions March NYC sued the New York Police Department after the department refused to confirm or deny the existence of records on Black Lives Matter activists.

Mariko Hirose, a senior staff attorney for the New York chapter, said, “New York City should be doing what it can to protect people’s right to engage in political protests. The last thing the police department should be doing is finding new loopholes to conceal from activists whether or not they are interfering with protests and organizing.

Millions March NYC and organizers Vienna Rye, Arminta Jeffryes and Nabil Hassein filed a routine record request under the state’s freedom of information law. They sought records that might reveal why multiple activists had “strange problems” with their cell phones at Black Lives Matter protests.

A request asked for any records the NYPD might have on “the use of technology to interfere with the use of cell phones by protestors,” according to the lawsuit. It also asked for records on monitoring of social media accounts of protestors, the “acquisition of contents” of any of the organizers’ cell phones, and any documents the NYPD might have on the protest or organizing activities of Millions March NYC.

The NYPD replied with a Glomar response, stating it refused to confirm or deny the records existed. The NYCLU describes Glomar as a “federally judicially crafted doctrine that is inconsistent with the structure and purpose” of New York’s freedom of information law.

This type of response is clearly unwarranted and unlawful,” the lawsuit states.

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