Activists find camera inside mysterious box on power pole near union organizer’s home

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A lot of questions came surrounding a mysterious box placed on a power pole outside the Memphis home of an outspoken union organizer.

A viewer tipped FOX13 to it.

We found out it’s a surveillance camera that belongs to Memphis Police.

“It was right there. Right up under that light” said union organizer Antonio Cathey as he described a strange box he noticed last week.

It had words high voltage on it and was attached to a utility pole in front of a relative’s home.

Related: MPD officer dies of COVID-19 complications, family says

A fellow activist got suspicious, climbed a ladder, opened it up and discovered a camera inside.

Cathey told FOX 13 it was pointing in the direction of his family’s property. “I am pretty sure they were most definitely surveilling me and other activists that meet on this street with me” said Cathey.

FOX13 wanted to know who owned the device.

We started Sunday night emailing MLGW since it was on a utility pole. We also emailed Memphis Police to find out if they owned the camera and put it there.

After five emails on Monday and Tuesday MLGW sent this response:

“The camera in question was actually an MPD covert camera they installed temporarily and did not go through the normal attachment process. MPD would normally handle a covert camera installation through MLGW, however these cameras were only temporary for MPD and can be put up quickly and removed quickly by MPD as well.”

Cathey told FOX13 “they are not only doing this to me. They are doing it other activists, known activists loud activists.”

Related: Federal lawsuit filed over Memphis City Hall escort list

FOX13 Investigates reported complaints from activists in 2017.

They showed us video what they allege were police surveilling them at their jobs and homes.

A federal consent decree prohibits MPD from political surveillance.

One city councilman said he has concerns and will ask Memphis Police about the camera and intent.

Councilman JB Smiley. Jr said, “our citizens of city need to know. Was this related to an ongoing police investigation or was this simply spying or surveilling people because of their political beliefs?”

FOX13 emailed MPD five times asking those same questions Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We have not gotten a response.

Activist Hunter Demster, who posted the device on his Facebook page said, “I can already tell you I am not going to buy whatever story, whatever PR they are about to push.”

The surveillance camera is now gone, taken down one day after activists posted about it on Facebook.

Those same activists claim Memphis Police removed it.

MLGW confirmed that in an email but MPD won’t comment.