Lawsuit Faults USPS Over Seizure of BLM Masks

'That's a scary reality that we live in,' says Movement Ink owner René Quiñonez
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2022 12:11 PM CDT
Lawsuit Faults USPS Over Seizure of BLM Masks
A USPS employee loads a truck outside a post office in Wheeling, Ill., on Dec. 3, 2021.   (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(Newser) – The US Postal Service under the Trump administration is accused of improperly seizing packages of face masks with slogans in support of Black Lives Matter in a lawsuit brought by a California screen printer. "The fact that our government can just seize private property—either because of just general suspicion or because they know it's political commentary—that's a scary reality that we live in," René Quiñonez, owner of Oakland screen-printing business Movement Ink, tells NBC News. Quiñonez says he and his employees "worked around the clock" to prepare cloth masks with the phrases "Stop killing Black people" and "Defund police," which had been purchased by the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) in the aftermath of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd.

They were to be delivered to cities including Minneapolis and Washington, DC, in early June of that year to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during demonstrations against police brutality. But four boxes containing 2,000 masks were marked as "seized by law enforcement" and delayed, as HuffPost reported at the time. The Postal Service later said the parcels appeared "consistent with parcels in other non-related instances that were confirmed to contain nonmailable matter, specifically controlled substances."

But the lawsuit says there was nothing suspicious about the "nondescript brown boxes" with clear labels. It's unknown whether a Postal Service note describing the boxes as containing "BLM MASKS" was added to the file before or after the seizure. If before, "Defendants violated the First Amendment by seizing packages because of their political messages," the suit reads. The agency has not commented on the suit. (Read more US Postal Service stories.)

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