First Amendment

Oregon civil rights lawyer files First Amendment suit over surveillance of his Twitter account

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The top civil rights lawyer with Oregon’s Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit claiming surveillance of his Twitter account violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech about the topic Black Lives Matter.

Erious Johnson’s lawsuit (PDF), filed Wednesday, also claims violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, and his 14th Amendment rights to due process and to freedom from racial discrimination. The Statesman Journal, the Associated Press and the Oregonian have stories.

Johnson’s suit says a state Justice Department investigator found his Twitter account while searching “black lives matter” using a software program called Digital Stakeout. The investigator was especially concerned about a tweet posted 10 months earlier that included the logo for the political rap group Public Enemy along with the lyric “consider yourselves warned.”

The investigator believed the tweet was threatening to police and shared it with superiors who approved preparation of a “threat assessment” with regards to Johnson, the suit says. The report was delivered to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who told the investigator and his superiors that she believed they had engaged in racial profiling. Johnson was informed about the threat assessment more than two weeks later.

Rosenblum didn’t take action against the investigator until the incident received negative media attention, according to the suit. The investigator who first conducted the search was fired this summer, a supervisor was demoted, and another investigator left the office, according to a spokeswoman for the state Justice Department.

The spokeswoman told AP and the Statesman Journal that Johnson is a valued member of the attorney general’s inner circle and the search of his Twitter account was “an unfortunate incident.”

Related articles: “Oregon digitally surveilled Black Lives Matter supporters; state AG is ‘shocked and appalled ‘” “Monitoring of my Twitter account showed racial bias, state lawyer says in labor complaint”

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