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Oregon DOJ Employee On Leave Over #BlackLivesMatter Profiling

20151127 Black Lives Matter

Jason Bernert

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A special agent with the Oregon Department of Justice is on leave after he monitored people using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

But an investigation into the incident reveals that top supervisors at the DOJ signed off on a memo the agent wrote about his findings.

Last fall, based on his hashtag search, an agent in the intelligence unit at the DOJ decided that an attorney he worked with might pose a threat to police. Erious Johnson, Jr. heads the civil rights division at the DOJ. On Twitter he had posted political cartoons. And he’d posted the logo of the rap group Public Enemy which the agent misread as a threat.

At least three supervisors signed off on a memo about Johnson’s twitter feed. Including Fred Boss, the top deputy to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

That’s disturbing, says Mat Dos Santos with the American Civil Liberties Union, because the surveillance was illegal.

“There was a violation of the law, and it should have been stopped.”

State law bars law enforcement from gathering information about people’s political or religious activity unless its directly linked to a crime.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Amelia Templeton is a multimedia reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, covering Portland city hall, justice and local news. She was previously a reporter for EarthFix, an award-winning public media project covering the environment in the Northwest.