In the latest reported attempt by Tennessee officials to chill First Amendment rights in the state following last year's racial justice uprising, the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security collected personal data of dozens of civil rights protesters and held the information in a secret database.
The dossiers include names, social security numbers, addresses, social media photos, and in some cases, information about the demonstrators' personal relationships.
In several cases the demonstrators had never been arrested, but they were listed as "persons of interest" according to Channel 5.
Jones found out about the dossiers when he filed the records request in an attempt to determine whether state authorities had treated the People's Plaza demonstration differently than the so-called "Stop the Steal" protests that were attended by former President Doinald Trump's supporters after the 2020 election, where attendees repeated false claims that Trump had won a second term.
Jones wrote on social media Monday that it was "telling" that law enforcement saw racial justice advocates, but not protests that culminated in the violent attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January, as a threat.
According to the ACLU of Tennessee, law enforcement agencies typically need to provide a compelling reason to collect and store data about members of the community. The organization worked to revise a consent decree dating back to the 1970s regarding police surveillance.
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Julia Conley.