Blacks Lives Matter sues over alleged racial profiling, illegal surveillance

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CLARKSTOWN -

The town of Clarkstown and Clarkstown police officials have been hit with a federal lawsuit over alleged racial profiling and illegal surveillance.

The lawsuit was filed by local Black Lives Matter members who say that authorities tried to silence them during protests back in 2015 and 2016.

When the Rockland and Orange counties’ chapter of Black Lives Matter held a series of public protests in 2015 and 16, they insist it was only to voice their frustration over a growing number of unarmed black men being killed by police.

What organizer Vanessa Green didn't know at the time is that, according to a letter that Town Supervisor George Hoehmann wrote to the assistant U.S. attorney, she and the group were being watched closely by police.  Their social media accounts were also watched, and their names were run through a criminal database and then sent onto federal authorities.

Black Lives Matter filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the town, suspended Police Chief Michael Sullivan and a retired captain, claiming police tried to silence and intimidate them with overwhelming force when they showed up to their various rallies. They also claim that secret surveillance operations violated their civil rights.

“Unless you're under suspicion or have reasonable cause that any of the members of the organization was involved in criminal activity, then it’s not justified and illegal.  The only reason this was done was because they didn't like the message,” says attorney William Wagstaff.

Black Lives Matter didn't list a dollar figure on the lawsuit, but says it is suing because the group deserves to be treated like everyone else.

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