The 2018 lawsuit which ACLU fought and won has produced tens of thousands of pages of documents.
“On March 2, 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee intervened in Blanchard v. City of Memphis, a lawsuit challenging the City of Memphis’ creation of a list of people, including multiple members of the Black Lives Matter movement and other local political activists and organizers, who require a police escort while visiting City Hall.”
ACLU won the case and a court monitor was tasked with supervising changes at MPD. Documents from the case can be found on the ACLU website, the Court Monitor website, and on the City site. PACER contains all the publicly available documents from the case. It requires a free registration and they will bill you after 150 pages in a quarter. There are more documents here.
All those documents
We viewed the wealth of documents produced by the trial as the added bonus, over and above the effects of the judgement. The documents offer a new and unique insight into the corrupt nature and practices at MPD. But who had time to download and read through tens of thousands of pages of dry legalese?
To provide a narrative, and to avoid further torment to people already maligned in the police material, I provide a personalized romp through the papers focused on what they say about me. The other people mentioned have given permission to use their mugshots.
The Saul Alinsky Thread
From Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 177. This is from a section titled “Blue Suede Shoes Post-Investigation Follow-up”, about the August 2016 Graceland police riot. I was not at Graceland for either of the two protests that July and August.
And I never read the Alinsky book. But facts are not a requirement for a Joint Intelligence Bulletin.
These JIBs were circulated daily to law enforcement and to commercial firms in the Memphis area. They have resulted in all sorts of problems to the people featured, including difficulty in finding employment.
From Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 186. This is from a section about the July 2016 Bridge protest. I wasn’t at this protest either. I was out on bail, with a long court date, from the Memorial Day Greensward arrest and I was avoiding protests on the advice of my attorney. I have never met Dana Asbury, and I knew Spencer Kaaz and Maureen Spain casually from that Greensward protest. We did not embarrass MPD and pit them against the citizens of Memphis. MPD did that to themselves.
Paul Garner’s Book Review
This post by Paul Garner of Mid South Peace and Justice Center was featured in an email by Det. Tim Reynolds AKA Bob Smith. It is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 213. Garner posted a book review, 58 people “liked” it and Reynolds included the Facebook avatars and names of all 58 in a JIB. JIBs were widely circulated among law enforcement and a list of Memphis businesses.
This sheds light on the previous two images, both showing quotes from the Alinsky book. The thing is, I have never read the book. I ordered the book in August 2018 just before the trial, when I saw the above material. While in the witness room during the ACLU trial, I made a point of carrying it around. But I was never able to finish it. The writing is poor and the insights trivial.
As this article in Vox, by Dylan Matthews explains, Alinsky was literally demonized by the far-right. “(Ben) Carson explained (erroneously), Alinsky dedicated his book Rules for Radicals to none other than … Satan himself!”. The book was dedicates to Alinsky’s mother. Because Hillary Clinton wrote a thesis about Alinsky, and because Rudy Giuliani attacked Barack Obama for being “educated in the Saul Alinsky methods.” Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Andrew Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, Monica Crowley and Bill O’Reilly repeatedly ranted about Alinsky.
Bob Smith AKA Tim Reynolds is using coded far right ideology when they invoke Alinsky. Never mind it was just a few people reading a book review, as protected by the First Amendment.
The truth of the matter is that Saul Alinsky was an old, non violent white man and we old, non violent white men are harmless and impotent.
At the Greensward.
Bob Smith friended me on Facebook in May 2016, the same month as Spencer Kaaz. Prior to this, Bob Smith friended Tami Sawyer, Paul Garner, Ian Jeffries, Bradley Watkins and Athena Palmer between July and November 2015. This time coincided with the killing of Darrius Stewart, the campaign to restart CLERB and Garner’s false arrest for photographing police at Manna House.
This is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 178, in a section titled “Blue Suede Shoes”, a reference to the Graceland protests, which I did not attend. The only group I was a member of at the time was Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which engages members of Congress on climate change policy. That and the Greensward constituted my ‘radical agenda’.
The “reliable source” was far-right police infiltrator Tim Reynolds AKA Bob Smith.
This is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 179. It contains a lie. I spent the entire morning taking photographs of the protest and the events preceding it. I have 211 photos to prove this. I never sat down or blocked Zoo officials, as the arrest ticket confirms. Photographing police activities is protected by the first amendment and MPD photo policy. At no point did any Greensward protest prevent a single visitor from accessing the Zoo, and Zoo attendance was up in the 2016 fiscal year ending June 30th 2016. In fact, the Free Parking Brigade helped visitors find free parking in the area surrounding the Zoo and probably increased attendance.
This is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 180. I was arrested while I was “at the rear of the police van, attempting to take pictures”. Bizarrely it goes on to say that I was arrested because the crowd started shouting after I was arrested.
In any event, my case was dismissed and expunged so public officials should not be using these records and mugshots for any reason.
MPD used a conspiracy theory inspired by far-right media to imagine I and other dissidents were in some radical organization inspired by the hated Saul Alinsky, using the Zoo protest as a front. They don’t seem to get it that saving a prime and priceless park is a legitimate end in itself.
In fact, contemporary police sources reveal, Maureen’s and my arrests were due to a police error. All our activities on the Greensward were protected by the First Amendment.
Before my arrest, I cared about the environment and a patch of precious City grass. Since being forcibly introduced to the workings of the criminal justice system, I have spent some time exposing its internal workings. I have never been radicalized, as I work within the system and under the protection of the first amendment, but I have gone from a few hours per week in the Park to full time exposing corruption. I did not choose MPD, they picked me. And dozens of innocent people who care about our city.
My role in the Greensward
I was active in the Greensward movement. I worked with the media operations, photographed events at the park; helped analyze the Zoo finances and distances traveled by Zoo visitors; and critique the Zoo’s Economic Impact Study. I organized the Chuck Brady Limerick Competition and various weekend activities to help get crowds to the park in April and May. I am admin of “The Fringe Element” facebook group.
The Greensward arrests.
Certain police sympathizers in the Park Protectors (Greensward) movement objected to comments I made in the social media. I wrote about the massive police presence on April 2nd and 3rd when 75 officers, with armored vehicles, helicopters, horses, three paddy wagons and a command center, threatened peaceful park users at a cost of $38K.
I also wrote about the Latino festival in early May which was attended by TACT officers and their Lenco armored vehicle. I also made other first amendment protected comments about MPD and police in general.
My work in the Greensward protests was only about the Greensward protest.
I have never been a police fan, and the police intimidation on the Greensward did not dispose me more kindly. Growing up in Northside Dublin, we knew that “all pigs are scum” and I repeated this bon mot frequently. After interacting with MPD I now realize that the Garda Siochana of my youth were not so bad.
In 2016, police sympathizers were highly mobilized in reaction to the 2015 City actions on reducing retiree benefits and after MPA president Mike Williams lost his run for Mayor. These cop fans infiltrated the Greensward movement.
Kathy Hurley, a police fan and Mike Williams’ former campaign manager, published a post with my photo and shared it with the MPA facebook page, saying that I intended to attack police at the Memorial Day protest, which was a complete lie. Due to my immigration status I decided not to sit down at the protest and instead spent the morning taking photos. Some cops apparently noticed me photographing the paddy wagon, recognized me from Hurley’s photo, and jumped me six or seven minutes before the end of a notice period that MPD Major Reynolds had given in an ultimatum.
Police fans had organized a “cop stop” for the protest. The idea was to bribe the police at the protest with doughnuts so they would not intervene. This hare-brained idea was countered when the police brass ordered their members not to attend the cop stop. They made an exception by appointing Richard Rouse as “liaison” to the park protectors. Rouse dispensed doughnuts, schmoozed with Park Protectors all morning, reported what he found to police brass and later arrested Maureen Spain. This demonstrates the futility of community members engaging with police, even with doughnuts.
We spoke to people knowledgeable about MPD regulations, who said that, if the police suspected I had a weapon, they should have jumped me, patted me down, and cut me loose. Instead, they over-reacted, disobeyed Rudolph’s order to wait out the deadline, and retaliated.
In short, I was arrested because police and their supporters objected to my first amendment protected speech. It is legal to criticize the police.
Bob Smith appears.
Bob Smith friended me in May 2016. After the May 30th arrests, the Park Protector groups were in uproar and many of them wanted more direct action. As admin of “The Fringe Element”, I was worried about some people, including Bob Smith, who were openly advocating more direct action. Not wanting to have people planning things in an open group, I created a secret Facebook group on June 5th entitled “Kessler Associates” and added Bob Smith and about six other people to the group.
It had been standard practice among Park Protectors in April to internally manage any direct action, because we were fighting a PR battle in the media and it took six or seven weeks to get the media mostly favorable to us. We had a group of marshals trained by Mid South Peace and Justice Center and took militants off-line into secret groups to let off steam. This kept the media focused on moms and kids with balloons, and the like.
Kessler Associates discussed some possible actions, and was mainly a way for people to let off steam. The main actions discussed were a possible “slow drive” to jam up traffic already bottlenecked at the Zoo parking lot entrance. These plans require secrecy to stay legal. It is legal to drive up to the Zoo window and count out 500 pennies, but if it is part of a plan to obstruct the entrance to a business, maybe not. A vehicle might break down in traffic and hold things up quite innocently unless it is planned. In the event, this group broke up on June 15th without executing any action, because operational security had been breached and we could not maintain plausible deniability.
Tim Reynolds literally tried to make a Federal case out of an idle comment about hacking the Zoo. I did not say that I had recruited two hackers, because I hadn’t, and. in fact, there were no Federal or any other indictments arising from this group. No crimes were committed during the 10 day lifetime of Kessler Associates, and no protests were organized. No protests were needed because news coverage of the Memorial Day arrests had gone international during this time. Our media operation was fully engaged.
I was aware of three other secret groups at the Greensward, none of which were infiltrated by Bob Smith. Two of these group hosted early discussions about the Memorial Day protests, but the actual logistics were organized in physical meetings. In fact, all three groups were dominated by police sympathizers and I was thrown out of them all more than a week before Memorial Day because I objected to the “Cop Stop” plan on the basis that no good can come from consorting with police.
The A-list discovered
Officer Polk, in the above memo, tried hard, after the fact, to create an offense to justify his action in requiring me to have an escort in City Hall. The conversation I had with George Boyington was about the ineffective security at City Hall and how a determined effort to bring a weapon into the building would defeat the security. The conversation with Boyington was overheard by Ursula Madden, the Mayor’s propagandist, but constituted free speech as no crime was contemplated and no provision of the First Amendment was violated.
There were no previous actions or threats towards the Mayor, and I was on the list because I had been falsely arrested at the Greensward because the police did not like my previous First Amendment speech directed at police.
As I wrote immediately after this notification, I was told I needed an escort because I was “on a list”. When I asked why I was on the list, Lieut. Bonner was summoned and explained it was “because of the Mayor’s house”. When I pointed out that I was not at the December 19th 2016 “Die-In”at the Mayor’s house, Bonner said “Then it was something you wrote on social media”. As everything I wrote on social media was first amendment protected speech, I was listed and was being sanctioned in retaliation for first amendment speech.
I went home and wrote contemporary notes of the interaction, submitted an open records request for the list, notified the media and the rest is history. Bruce Kramer called a meeting of blacklistees in his office, the Nashville office of ACLU became engaged and Blanchard et al, thanks to brilliant litigation by ACLU and a blustering defense by the City legal hacks, gave the people of Memphis the greatest legal win against the City since the original 1978 Kendrick consent decree.
We saw how MPD, inspired by alt-right ideology, decided that literature fans were enemies of the state, created JIBs which slandered individuals and shared them with potential employers, accepted lies from their sycophantic supporters, breached training and discipline to arrest protesters without cause, lied about alleged crimes and escorted political opponents in City Hall in another breach of the First Amendment.
Mike Rallings sent an email to all his members in February 2017 explaining the first amendment. He said that criticizing police is protected by the first amendment. You’d think that the basic constitutional law of the nation would be the first thing they’d teach recruits at the academy.
I was lucky. I was able to insulate myself against MPD slander by retiring a little early, but in the years following, dozens of City political opponents were followed, surveilled, arrested and slandered in JIBs circulated to potential employers. Their worst “crimes” were using the First Amendment to assemble, march and speak out against injustice. Harm was done to many young lives.
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