A California screen printer is suing the U.S. Postal Service for seizing shipments of Black Lives Matter masks intended to protect demonstrators from Covid-19 during protests following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd.
The cloth masks, with slogans like “Stop killing Black people” and “Defund police,” were purchased by the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) and were meant to be shipped to D.C., St. Louis, New York City and Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed by a police officer. But four boxes containing about 500 masks each were marked as “Seized by law enforcement” and their shipment was delayed more than 24 hours.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday and shared first with NBC News, accuses U.S. Postal Service and U.S. Postal Inspection Service officials of violating constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment by improperly seizing the boxes without probable cause, a warrant, or even reasonable suspicion. The lawsuit also raises the possibility that officials violated the First Amendment by seizing the masks because of their political messaging.
“The wisdom of our constitutional design is that it knows significant harms befall the public when government officials exceed constitutional bounds and violate rights. That is exactly what happened here,” read the suit.
“As confirmed by the postal official Defendant’s internal notes memorializing the seizures of those boxes, those same internal notes make clear the Defendants knew the packages coming from Movement Ink contained ‘BLM Masks,’” read the suit.
Movement Ink owner René Quiñonez, who owns the screen-printing business in Oakland, California, that manufactured the masks, told NBC News that his small family business had been impacted by the seizure.
In a letter to Rep. Barbara Lee in June 2020, the Postal Service claimed that the parcels “were detained solely because the external physical characteristics of the parcels were consistent with parcels in other non-related instances that were confirmed to contain nonmailable matter, specifically controlled substances.”
The suit demands compensatory damages for the seizure of personal property, the Defendant’s unconstitutional conduct and for attorney fees.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NBC NEWS