A Waconia man who earlier this year settled a suit with Chaska for blocking his access to the city’s social media accounts is now suing the Bloomington Police Department for allegedly blocking people from its social media — even though he himself was not blocked.
Noah McCourt is suing the department on First Amendment grounds because another citizen, Sumaya Aden, said she was blocked from the Bloomington police Twitter account. Aden had posted tweets criticizing Bloomington police after a four-hour standoff last month in which her brother, 23-year-old Isak Aden of Columbia Heights, was shot and killed.
The standoff occurred in Eagan, where neighboring police departments assisted Eagan police. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension later identified five officers who fired their weapons and were placed on administrative leave, one from Eagan and the remaining four from Bloomington.
Sumaya Aden posted more than a dozen tweets blasting Bloomington police, some accusing officers of “murdering” her brother. She said the department then blocked her and possibly others from accessing its Twitter account.
“We pay police officers w our tax money to ‘serve & protect’ us … not kill our family members & then block us,” Aden tweeted on July 26.
She asked others to tweet the Bloomington police and “ask why 4 of their officers murdered my brother & then proceed to block ME, a concerned & frustrated sister looking for answers instead of … working with my family to give us the answers that we need to help us understand the reasoning behind my brothers murder.”
McCourt said Aden gave him a screenshot of what appears to be the Bloomington police Twitter page, which goes by “@BPD_MN” and says: “You are blocked from following @BPD_MN or viewing @BPD_MN’s tweets.”
McCourt, who serves on the state Council on Developmental Disabilities, calls himself an activist “who pays attention to police brutality around the state.” In May this year, he received a $1,005 settlement from Chaska, which had blocked him from the city’s Twitter account. The city was ordered to restore McCourt’s access and train staffers on First Amendment applications to social media accounts.
“Even if you aren’t the one blocked, the person who is doing the blocking is still imposing a viewpoint-based restriction on everybody else’s right to hear,” McCourt said. “It’s still a First Amendment violation to everybody else.”
Aden could not be reached for comment, and neither could Bloomington city or police officials.
The growth of social media sites “really increases the need for public officials to keep an eye on what’s happening,” said Don Gemberling, a spokesman for the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information. “What the government is supposed to be doing is facilitating access to data.”
Blocking citizens from seeing or posting to their accounts is “a form of impeding access to government information,” Gemberling said.