Lawsuit filed over City Hall 'blacklist' alleges unlawful videotaping, tracking of activists

Lawsuit filed over City Hall 'blacklist' alleges unlawful videotaping, tracking of activists
Published: Feb. 22, 2017 at 9:12 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2017 at 9:38 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The City of Memphis is being sued over the controversial list of people who require an escort inside City Hall. It's been less than a week since the City Hall escort list was made public, and now the lawsuit has been filed in federal court alleging multiple violations by the City and MPD, including political surveillance, as recently as Tuesday.

Four people listed on the City Hall "blacklist" have filed suit against the city. Allegations of political surveillance, protesters being videotaped, and social media pages being tracked are all contained and laid out in an eight page complaint filed in Federal Court against the City of Memphis.

The blacklisted people say the city has been tracking them on social media and recording them during lawful protests. They say that violates a court ruling made in 1978 that prevents "domestic surveillance of lawful and peaceful protests and exercise of First Amendment rights."

"This would be amusing if it wasn't so...illegal," Paul Garner said. "You're violating federal consent decrees, you're violating your own departmental regulations of political surveillance of activists."

Garner is one of the activists listed on the blacklist. He and three other people (minister Elaine Blanchard, activist Keedran Franklin, and Mid-South Peace and Justice Executive Director Bradley Watkins) are now hoping the legal system vindicates them.

"This is why people do not trust government. This is why people do not trust law enforcement; it's because of this," Garner said. "This sends a message to the public that they don't care about your rights."

In addition to filming protesters during lawful protests, the lawsuit accuses Memphis of using a computer system called Geofeedia to collect social media data. It even alleges protesters were videotaped at lawful protest on Tuesday outside of City Hall.

The lawsuit asks for Memphis to dissolve the blacklist immediately.

City of Memphis has not issued a comment about the lawsuit.

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