The Memphis Police Department may have been spying on Black Lives Matters activists through fake social media accounts. The program was revealed late last week when documents were released by the city.
The Hill noted that the documents revealed how Memphis police kept tabs on BLM protestors and their associates. The report suggests that BLM activist Keedran Franklin knew he was being watched because he was usually the first person arrested at a protest.
Franklin told the Guardian that sometimes officers sit outside his office in unmarked cars, waiting for him to leave. He also claims that officers whom he had never met would come to him and address him by name. Franklin’s attorney Scott Kramer says that this was done, “just to let him know that they all knew who is.”
The Guardian pointed out the fact that Franklin’s name is featured prominently in the unsealed documents. Keedran Franklin has become a key figure when it comes to organizing protests for BLM and the Memphis Coalition of Concerned Citizens.
Black Lives Matter began on July 13, 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman who shot and killed Treyvon Martin. Many of the protests by the group has ended in arrests by police. The group also protests against police brutality. This has led many of the group’s detractors to view them as anti-police.
Therefore, the actions of the Memphis police may not be that surprising. A similar tactic was used by the FBI during the civil rights movement. The FBI program was known as Cointelpro and was used to spy on activists and spread disinformation.
The new report out of Memphis is sure to raise questions about freedom of speech and privacy. Americans have the constitutional right to protest and the police program put in place to spy on Black Lives Matter protesters may very well have violated that right.