Through his keen eye, ready camera lens, and courage in sticking up for his rights and the rights of others, Ryan “Soup” Morgan contributed significantly to advancing civil rights and liberties in D.C., first as a documentarian and then as an ACLU-D.C. client.
We are deeply saddened by Mr. Morgan’s death in September at age 31.
A videographer and entrepreneur, Mr. Morgan first worked with the ACLU-D.C. after his cousin, M. B. Cottingham, was searched in a degrading and gratuitous way by a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer. Mr. Morgan recorded the search with his cell phone, capturing details of the search that police body-worn camera footage often obscures, including the way the officer aggressively probed Mr. Cottingham’s sensitive body parts.
The footage helped the ACLU-D.C. win a significant settlement for Mr. Cottingham. It also raised public awareness of MPD’s invasive search practices: over 300,000 people watched the video of the search on Mr. Morgan’s YouTube channel, and the recording contributed to NBC4’s investigative report on MPD search policies. Ultimately, MPD fired the officer involved and another officer who was responsible for problematic police training.
Mr. Morgan’s advocacy for his cousin was one of many examples of his efforts to reduce over-policing of his community. His YouTube channel contains multiple videos shining a light on troubling police conduct and show Mr. Morgan’s understanding of his legal rights, his ability to challenge officers abusing their powers, and his willingness to advocate for others.
In one video, for example, Mr. Morgan challenges officers who peer into a parked car. “Do you all do this stuff to white people?” he asks. In another, MPD officers stop Mr. Morgan for a window tint infraction, only to pivot quickly to accusing him of having a firearm in his car (he didn’t). The officers extend the stop so that a dog can sniff the car for guns, and Mr. Morgan tells the officers that they are violating his rights. Those criticisms were ultimately vindicated when the ACLU-D.C. represented Mr. Morgan in a lawsuit and—once again relying heavily on a video he took—won a settlement based on the incident.
In addition to his work as an advocate, Mr. Morgan was a beloved son and caring friend with deep ties to the community where he was raised. He will be missed not only by his loving family, but also by the ACLU-D.C. and broader D.C. community, which he uplifted through his advocacy for basic civil rights.