More than two years after a Black Lives Matter protest in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, a judge just ruled that the New York Police Department (NYPD) must provide activists with documents, photos and videos collected during the November 2014 action.
Activist and law student Keegan Sephan tweeted the news yesterday (February 8):
We won! Judge orders NYPD to release records of undercover surveillance of #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/Qg9xgUBPrD pic.twitter.com/iusr9qBuRk
— Keegan Stephan (@KeeganNYC) February 8, 2017
Per a judgment handed down by Justice Manuel J. Mendez in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, the Department must follow in the footsteps of the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Police and Metro North Railroad and comply with Freedom of Information Law requests filed by James Logue, an activist who saw uniformed and plainclothes officers recording the protest.
The NYPD reportedly denied having records and rejected the initial request, which was filed in January 2015, and then denied the subsequent appeal a year later, saying that releasing the information would put officers at risk. Logue then sued the department via the state’s Supreme Court, where Mendez ruled that the NYPD did not provide evidence to support that argument. The department has 30 days from the date of the order, which was signed February 6, to comply with the request.
From the decision:
Respondents make blanket assertions and fail to particularize or distinguish their surveillance or undercover techniques and records. They fail to show that redacting the relevant information, as was done with the MTA and Metro North records, would not provide sufficient protection for NYPD undercover offices, their techniques and records.
“We are pleased that Justice Mendez rejected the NYPD’s arguments that government transparency means the public unsafe,” M.J. Williams, one of the attorneys who argued on behalf of the activists, said in the statement tweeted above. “The public is entitled to understand how and why the NYPD dedicates enormous resources to surveil not only activists, but New Yorkers living out their daily lives.”
Neither the NYPD nor the mayor’s office have released statements regarding the decision at press time.
This isn’t the first time activists have sued to obtain Black Lives Matter surveillance information. In October, advocacy group Color of Change sued the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI for similar data. As of press time, that suit has not been settled.
(H/t New York Daily News)