By Monitoring Political Protesters, Memphis Police Violated Consent Decree With ACLU

by | October 30, 2018 AT 10:00 AM

By Megan Cerullo

A federal judge ruled Friday that the Memphis Police Department violated a consent decree between the City of Memphis and the ACLU of Tennessee by spying on political protesters.

The Tennessee chapter of the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Memphis Police Department on Feb. 22, 2017, for keeping a list of people to monitor by social media and other means.

The list included members of the Black Lives Matter movement, the mother of Darrius Stewart, a teen killed by Memphis police, and local political organizers.

The court imposed sanctions to ensure the city's future compliance with the agreement.

"This important decision ensures that activists in Memphis can continue to fight the good fight without fear of unwarranted police surveillance," ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said in a statement.

"The right to free speech is crucial to our ability to speak out against injustice and to hold the government accountable. Especially in this day and age, being able to truly engage in dialogue about important issues without the threat of intimidation is vital to our democracy."

The City of Memphis issued a statement responding to the ruling, saying that it is taking steps to make sure it is in compliance with the decree.

"The Court noted that the violation of the consent decree was not intentional but stems from a 'shared misunderstanding rather than political favoritism,'" it said. "It also points out that officers have demonstrated their dedication to protecting First Amendment rights."

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