/  06.02.2022

A screen-printing company is taking legal action against the United States Postal Service after reportedly seizing shipments of Black Lives Matter masks.

They reportedly detained shipments contained masks that were intended to protect demonstrators during protests following the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

Cloth masks featuring 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 cities including D.C., St. Louis, New York City and Minneapolis – the city where Floyd was killed by a police officer.

Four of the boxes that contained 500 masks each were marked with the words, “Seized by law enforcement,” and the shipments were delayed for over 24 hours.

The California screen printer has filed a lawsuit that alleges that the U.S. Postal Service and U.S. Postal Inspection Service officials violated constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment when they improperly seized the boxes of masks without probable cause, a warrant, or reasonable suspicion. 

According to the suit, officials are also being accused of violating the First Amendment by withholding the shipment of the masks due to their political messaging.

“It is not clear whether Defendants knew that the packages contained — in Defendants’ words — ‘BLM MASKS’ before seizing the packages,” the lawsuit reports. “If Defendants knew that the packages contained — in Defendants’ words — ‘BLM MASKS’ before seizing the packages, Defendants violated the First Amendment by seizing packages because of their political messages.”

The owner of Movement Ink, the Oakland-based business listed as the plaintiff in the suit, says that the move impacted the small family business.

“For us as an organization, as a company, and as part of our community, our intent was to support the many activities that were going on across the country,” said René Quiñonez.

In June 2020 the Postal Service informed Rep. Barbara Lee that the boxes “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 non-mailable matter, specifically controlled substances.”

On the other hand, the suit alleges  that each box was “neatly taped,” and that they were even equipped with labels that read “BLM MASKS.”

 

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