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Black Unity, CLDC Amend Their Lawsuit Against Springfield Police, Alleging Surveillance and Arbitrary “Unlawful Assembly” Proclamations

On Aug. 20, the Civil Liberties Defense Center and Black Unity announced that they had amended their previously reported lawsuit against the Springfield Police Department for actions taken during the activist group’s Thurston protest on July 29, 2020. 

According to the CLDC and BU, the lawsuit has been amended to “include claims of unlawful spying and viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment and a little used Oregon Law, ORS 181A.250.”

ORS 181A.250 states:

“No law enforcement agency, as defined in ORS 181A.010 (Definitions for ORS 181A.010 to 181A.350), may collect or maintain information about the political, religious or social views, associations or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, corporation, business :or partnership unless such information directly relates to an investigation of criminal activities, and there are reasonable grounds to suspect the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct.”

The first of the new complaints states, on page 49, that, through the video and audio recording of Defendant Joseph N. Burke, a person described as “my dispatcher” and other City of Springfield employees—who are identified as John Does—were collecting and maintaining information about Black Unity. 

The complaint adds that the “information that was wrongfully collected and maintained included license plate numbers; the names of people “associated” with those vehicles; BU members’ social and political views, associations, and activities; and social media posts regarding lawful planned protests and about concerns regarding the noose.”

Furthermore, the lawsuit states that the damage done by this cannot be “adequately remedied with money,” therefore, an appropriate course of action would be to “[provide] Plaintiffs with all records that were improperly gathered; destroying Defendants’ copies of those records; and requiring an independent monitor to help prevent future violations of ORS 181A.250, for five years.” 

In another part of the complaint, city employees—identified as John Does— are mentioned to have recorded audio and video of the Thurston protest prior to “any notice to disperse, and prior to any investigation of criminal activities, and without a reasonable suspicion.” 

Also mentioned were city employees—again identified as John Does—who surveilled and collected information on the family members of a Black Unity leader without reasonable suspicion.   

Also new were the names of the two not-so-greatly “undercover” SPD officers who followed the march with their obnoxiously large camera lenses: Officer Kody Lane and Detective Robert Weaver — who was implicated in the SPD sex scandal this year.

Pictured: The Springfield Police Department’s idea of “undercover surveillance.” (Taken July 29, 2020 // MG Belka // Double Sided Media)

The second, and last, of the new complaints is regarding a violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983 and states that:

“The City of Springfield has arbitrarily declared marches and protests and other activity protected by the First Amendment to be “unlawful assemblies,” and has allowed individual officers to do so, based on their own personal political opinions and/or the degree in which they are offended by the opinions of protestors (particularly abolitionists) and to interfere with marches and protests when an SPD officer disagrees with the viewpoint of those First Amendment activities. “

The amended lawsuit can be read here

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