The NYPD argued during a Dec. 7 New York Supreme Court hearing that it should not have to release records of its surveillance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Mass Appeal reports.
An activist affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain NYPD surveillance records from a series of daily actions at Grand Central Terminal between November 2014 and January 2015.
At that time, Black Lives Matter organizers were protesting the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
In public court papers, the NYPD admitted to surveilling Black Lives Matter activists and collecting recorded communications and multimedia records.
The activist who requested the records reportedly witnessed MTA and Metro-North officers, and NYPD taking photographs and videos of the demonstrations.
The NYPD first denied that they had any such records. However, the MTA and Metro-North later released hundreds of pages of recorded communications between police officers that included NYPD personnel, in addition to photographs that were taken during the protests.
The NYPD maintained for at least a year that it did not have records of its own until a group of activists and lawyers sued to obtain the records.
According to the New York Daily News, attorney David Thompson — who argued the NYPD should release the documents — said, “State law says the NYPD can’t operate in secret — the NYPD has to disclose what it’s doing. But the NYPD completely refused to obey that law so we had to file this lawsuit.”
The department argued in court that it should not have to release its additional records pertaining to Black Lives Matter surveillance for the following reasons:
(1) that [the records] would reveal the identity of the undercover officers, putting their lives in danger;
(2) that they would reveal the NYPD’s undercover tactics, rendering them less effective; and
(3) that they would reveal technology used by the NYPD, leaving it vulnerable to malicious hacks. The NYPD claims these reasons satisfy exemptions under the Freedom of Information Law.
During the hearing, Thompson argued, “You won’t find any mention of an actual criminal investigation. There’s no crime here.” He suggested instead, “What we have is the NYPD, which is being criticized by Black Lives Matter. In return, the NYPD was engaged in a political response of surveilling their critics.”
You can read the court documents here.