The US Postal Service is being sued by a screen printer from California for seizing boxes of Black Lives Matter masks. The mask were being sold to demonstrators, according to NBC News. Plenty of BLM merchandise was being shipped around the country as people geared up for the 2020 protests. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) placed their order from Movement Ink but nearly went empty handed.
Shipments were expected to reach New York City, St. Louis and Minneapolis with masks reading “Stop killing Black people” and “Defund police.” According to NBC, four boxes with 500 masks were labeled “seized by law enforcement” by postal workers resulting in a 24 hour delay. The first week of June, Movement Ink owner René Quiñonez said he and his employees hustled tirelessly to produce those masks as demonstrators and organizers from all over requested merchandise.
The suit alleges US Postal Service and US Postal Inspection Service violated their Fourth Amendment rights by seizing the packages without probable cause.
“As confirmed by the postal official Defendant’s internal notes memorializing the seizures of those boxes - those same internal notes make clear the Defendants knew the packages coming from Movement Ink contained “‘BLM Masks,’” read the suit.
More on the suit from NBC News:
Movement Ink owner René Quiñonez, who owns the screen-printing business in Oakland, California, that manufactured the masks, told NBC News that his small family business had been impacted by the seizure.
In a letter to Rep. Barbara Lee in June 2020, the Postal Service claimed that the parcels “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 nonmailable matter, specifically controlled substances.”
The suit also claims if the Defendants knew the packages contained BLM masks, they violated the First Amendment because of the political messages.
“The wisdom of our constitutional design is that it knows significant harms befall the public when government officials exceed constitutional bounds and violate rights. That is exactly what happened here,” read the suit.
Quiñonez told NBC News his business valued the relationships made with activists and organizations during that time. However, after his packages were seized, those relationships went idle as did those with the US Postal Service employees.
The suit demands compensatory damages for the seizure of personal property, the Defendant’s unconstitutional conduct and for attorney fees.