A group of Oregon activists are outraged upon discovering that an investigator at the state’s Department of Justice had been targeting Black Lives Matter supporters on social media.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum confirmed the unnamed staffer’s involvement, saying that while he was searching for potential security threats, he had been conducting surveillance as threat-assessment work by searching hashtags commonly used by Black Lives Matter activists, such as #BlackLivesMatter. The employee has been placed on paid administrative leave while a special investigator examines the information collected.
“They were looking for anti-police sentiments, potential threats to police,” Rosenblum said in a statement, adding that she was “appalled.” Though no one was taken into custody, the employee had collected information from various users, printed tweets and created files for the activists.
Local NAACP, ACLU and Urban League chapters have all condemned the “digital surveillance.” Portland Urban League Director Nkenge Harmon Johnson said that she learned of the surveillance after her husband, who is the DOJ’s civil rights division director, was flagged for using his software to conduct “threat assessments.”
“It is improper and potentially unlawful for the Oregon Department of Justice to conduct surveillance and investigations on an Oregonian merely for expressing a viewpoint or being a part of a social movement,” Johnson said. “We are convened that such unwarranted investigations are racially motivated and create a chilling effect on social justice advocates, political activists and others who wish to engage in discourse about the issues of our time.”