MINNEAPOLIS—The Minneapolis NAACP sued the city of Minneapolis on April 26 over allegations that police officers used phony social media accounts to spy on activists without a legitimate public safety purpose.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges that the Minneapolis Police Department discriminated against the NAACP and violated its members’ constitutional rights when it singled out the organization for surveillance “on the basis of race.”
“These are accounts that are supposed to be used for official investigations. There were none,” Liliana Zaragoza, director of the University of Minnesota’s Racial Justice Law Clinic and attorney for the NAACP, told the Star Tribune.
Minneapolis officials have denied the allegation of social media abuse since it first appeared in a scathing Minnesota Department of Human Rights report alleging racially biased policing a year ago. But state Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero stood by the allegation last month when both sides announced a court-enforceable settlement that calls for a series of reforms for the police department in the city where George Floyd was murdered by an officer nearly three years ago.
City officials told reporters they couldn’t find evidence to support the social media allegations.
“Our findings are correct,” Lucero insisted at the same news conference. “MPD uses covert social media to target Black leaders, Black organizations and elected officials without a public safety objective. That remains true.”
Minneapolis and state leaders have declined to release the underlying evidence, citing data privacy laws.
Zaragoza said the city ignored the NAACP’s request for the data, leaving Black community members to only guess as to how deep the surveillance has gone.
“We don’t know sinister this is,” she told the newspaper.
The NAACP hopes to learn the full extent of the surveillance through the lawsuit’s discovery process, including the names of officers and whether any social media spying translated to any real-life action.
The city has not yet been served with the lawsuit, spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said. (AP)