ACLU, City of Memphis face off in court over surveillance concerns

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and the City of Memphis faced off in court on Monday. The ACLU is suing the city over the surveillance of groups like Black Lives Matter and the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, which they say violates a court order from 40 years ago.

The lawsuit came about from people put on the so called “black list.”

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla already ruled what the city is doing is “political intelligence” and violated the 1978 agreement prohibiting law enforcement from engaging in activities that interfere with a person’s first amendment rights.

In a statement, the city has maintained that the consent decree is outdated and needs to be updated to reflect new technology.

Monday,the court is trying to establish whether the ACLU of Tennessee has standing in the case.

Just before lunch, the ACLU called Memphis Police Department Sgt. Timothy Reynolds, a detective with Homeland Security, who said he ran the fake social media account under the name Bob Smith, to monitor city protests.

Police Director Mike Rallings said he feels the department has complied with the court order as it would apply in today’s world.

The city admits to monitoring activists who took part in demonstrations, and looking at social media groups to get information like the size and intensity of planned demonstrations, as well as to properly provide for public safety and to stop criminal activity.

Rallings said his officers will follow the judge’s order. He said it’s his job to find a way to balance public safety.

This will be a bench trial, so the judge will make a ruling himself so a jury will not be seated.