On Thursday, CCR filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the federal government to compel it to release documents related to the surveillance of Movement for Black Lives protests and organizing. The suit follows a FOIA request in July asking The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI for the documents; the agencies failed to provide them.
There is widespread evidence that the government has monitored protesters and activists since the very first days of Movement for Blacks Lives protests after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. This suit seeks to shed light on this shadowy — and quite possibly illegal — behavior and to expose its extent. It appears to be widespread among federal agencies and coordinated with local law enforcement.
Surveillance of protests and organizers violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly and has a chilling effect. It also has a long and dishonorable history in the U.S. The lawsuit aimed to highlight this with its timing: it was filed in the same week as the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party. The Panthers, who were also protesting police violence against African Americans, were a target of government surveillance (and worse) under the notorious COINTELPRO program.
The July FOIA request was filed by CCR and Color of Change. For the lawsuit, the Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Law joins CCR as co-counsel representing COC.