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FOIL Release: July 2018

NYPD Surveillance of Black Lives Matter Protests


In July 2018, after more than two years of litigation by M.J. Williams Law, the New York City Police Department disclosed 75 emails used to surveil the nearly daily Black Lives Matter protests held in and around Grand Central Terminal after the non-indictments of the police officers that killed Michael Brown Jr. and Eric Garner. NYPD had first released the emails the previous year, upon a court order, but with unlawful redactions of crucial information, such as the date and time each email was sent. The set of 75 emails available here includes all the information the Court determined the public is legally entitled to see.


These 75 emails, and their attachments, provided the first documentation that NYPD had deployed undercover officers to report on, and potentially infiltrate, the protests which began in New York City in late 2014. Several of the emails provide information about the protesters' future plans, while others share screenshots of text messages protesters sent about upcoming protests. Other emails show NYPD targeting certain individuals, sharing photographs of them and information about them. Notably, many other emails remark on the "peaceful," "orderly," and "very quiet" nature of the protests, raising questions why NYPD dedicated significant resources to secretly track and report on the protesters and their activities.

The Freedom of Information request that eventually led to the release of these 75 records sought documentation of NYPD's surveillance of the protests in Grand Central Terminal only from late November 2014 through January 2015. However, the records NYPD ultimately produced reveal that NYPD was surveilling protests citywide at that time. NYPD's own numbering system on the records additionally reveal that NYPD had sent nearly 700 more of these emails in that two-month period. A subsequent FOIL request led to the release of those 700 additional emails in November 2018; they are available here.  


The release of these 75 emails and the litigation that led to it was the subject of several media reports, which are gathered here.  

The documents obtained in July 2018 are available below for viewing, printing, and downloading. (On mobile devices, click the image to access the .pdf reader.) If you have any questions or requests concerning this Freedom of Information Law release, please reach out to

NYPD emails
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