Fast-food workers sued the City of Memphis, Tennessee on Wednesday for intimidating, surveilling and harassing workers since the first nationwide Fight for US$15 protest in 2014.
“The MPD is engaging in an intentional and illegal campaign to intimidate workers in an effort to prevent them from exercising their constitutional right to speak out,” said Jerry Martin, an attorney for the Mid-South Organizing Committee of the Fight for US$15 campaign, in a press release.
“We’ve read about such behavior in history books, but unfortunately, in Memphis, intimidation and harassment of protesters is not just a thing of the past.”
The police department, they say, followed members after meetings, pressured workers not to sign petitions, blacklisted members, spread “disparaging information” that was “sometimes using racially coded and offensive language” to the community and was harsher with Black members than white members when enforcing permitting laws.
WATCH: Ñ Don't Stop: Fight for $15 and Anti-Trump Rally in NY
The complaint said that the behavior violates constitutional rights and terms in a 1978 Consent Order that prohibited collusion between the city and the police to infiltrate and dismantle activist groups.
“The City of Memphis is declaring war on its lowest paid workers, most of whom are Black,” said Edie Love, an organizer with Standing Up For Racial Justice Memphis, in the press release. “It appears Memphis and its Police Department are still stuck in the days of Jim Crow.”
One of the latest national strikes led by the Fight for US$15 campaign was last April, when the Memphis chapter gathered peacefully, in a protest with a permit, yet was approached by double the number of police than picketers.
The police also “seemed to take direction from McDonald’s,” said the complaint.