Sacramento, CA – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Sacramento County sheriff for blocking Black Lives Matter (BLM) Sacramento leaders on Facebook.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, BLM founders Tanya Faison and Sonia Lewis alleged that Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones violated their right to free speech when he deleted their posts from his “public figure” Facebook page, and then blocked them altogether, KCRA reported.
The controversy erupted after Sheriff Jones posted a screenshot from the BLM Facebook page to his Facebook page.
In the post, BLM declared that they are abolitionists, not reformists, and that they refuse to “work within the system that we are fighting.”
“We are ungovernable. We are not here to pacify white folks or consider their feelings in what we do,” the BLM post continued. “We are here to build Black community and fight for Black liberation.”
The group then denounced all law enforcement, and confirmed that they have no intention of working with the police.
“We aren’t friendly and sitting down to build bridges with the police,” the post read. “We want to abolish the police. They are doing exactly what they were created to do. That’s why they keep doing it and keep getting away with it.”
The group noted that they “aren’t asking for suggestions or how you feel about it,” and said to expect more of the same from them in the future.
Sheriff Jones also shared a screenshot from Faison’s page in which she declared that “all cops are bastards,” The Sacramento Bee reported.
In the post, Faison explained that she does not make any exceptions and declared that there is no such thing as a “good” cop, according to The Blaze.
“What I mean when I say 'all cops are bastards' is literally every single cop is complicit and participating in a system designed to uphold the capitalist oligarchy we live under and thus all cops are guilty of that system's sins,” Faison’s post read.
“[F---] your brother. [F---] your cousin. [F---] your dad. [F---] all cops,” she wrote on her page.
After sharing the anti-police screenshots to his public figure Facebook page, Sheriff Jones deleted comments the BLM leaders later made on his page, then blocked them, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Faison and Lewis were banned from the sheriff’s page in the fall of 2018 for what they described as “comments critical of Sheriff Jones on his Page under his posts discussing the oversight of his Department and Black Lives Matter Sacramento,” the lawsuit read, according to KCRA.
"Whether or not the sheriff likes our message, we must have the ability to hold his office accountable," Faison told the news outlet. "He relies on Facebook to communicate to the public. He doesn't get to pick and choose which constituents he wants to engage and block the rest."
According to McGeorge School of Law professor Leslie Gielow Jacobs, the court could determine that Sheriff Jones’ page is a digital “public forum,” where he conducts “official business,” KCRA reported.
“There are a number of precedents, but the one that pops to mind has to do with the president's Twitter account,” Jacobs said. “[President Donald Trump] had blocked people who were criticizing him. The ruling said ‘no, the Constitution protects their right – as long as you said that people can come in and comment, no viewpoint discrimination."
But the same rule does not apply to BLM, according to Jacobs.
“The Constitution only applies to government actors or people who are acting really closely in combination with the government,” she explained. “[BLM Sacramento] are like you and me. They are not representing the people. They are representing themselves. They're individuals. They have the free speech right and they can choose what to do on their pages.”
ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Sean Riordan alleged that Sheriff Jones “censored” the BLM leaders due to the “content of their speech,” and has asked the court to force the sheriff to unblock them on Facebook, The Sacramento Bee reported.
BLM also wants an unspecified amount in damages.
“Sheriff Jones has attempted to stifle the voices of the leaders of Black Lives Matter Sacramento,” Riordan argued. “This is impermissible censorship that violates both the state and federal constitutions.”