Four people on a controversial list filed a federal lawsuit against the city Wednesday. They claim the list, requiring an escort in Memphis City Hall, violates a court order from 1978, as well as their constitutional rights. They also contend the list is designed to harass, intimidate, isolate, and silence them.
The 1978 order specifically forbids Memphis Police from gathering political intelligence. According to Steve Mulroy, an associate dean at the University of Memphis School of Law, political intelligence includes a lot.
“The issue is how did they come compile the list,” Mulroy said. “If they gathered information on who is being a political activist, who was part of Black Lives Matter, who was publicly criticizing MPD, that is the gathering of political intelligence. I think, and it would probably violate the consent decree.”
As recently as Tuesday, Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings would provide only general reasons for the list, but not explain the specific reason for each name on it.
“It’s our responsibility to maintain public safety, so I look at everything from that standpoint,” Rallings said. “It is not political as it was done.”
But general reasons are not sufficient according to Mulroy. The four individuals contend other violations by MPD include using a software program called Geofedia, which illustrates who is posting what to social media and recording people at protests.
“The consent decree says you can’t photograph or film protests and demonstrations,” Mulroy said.
The lawsuit asks the court to dissolve the list, punish the city with punitive damages, and award attorneys’ fees.
City spokespeople would not comment on the litigation.