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Police files reveal federal interest in Oscar Grant protesters, especially ‘anarchists’

December 28, 2010

by Ali Winston, The Informant

Two unidentified officers monitor and record demonstrators in Downtown Oakland on July 8, after the jury found former BART cop Johannes Mehserle guilty of nothing more than involuntary manslaughter. – Photo: Ali Winston
Documents recently obtained by The Informant reveal the significant involvement of state and federal law enforcement in monitoring the various Oscar Grant protests in Oakland over the past two years.

According to internal Oakland Police Department documents about the July 8 protests that followed Johannes Mehserle’s involuntary manslaughter conviction, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Secret Service and California Department of Justice were assigned to monitor crowd activities.

Thirty-three federal, state and local officers were assigned to video details posted in buildings surrounding Frank Ogawa Plaza and throughout the crowd of several hundred demonstrators. Among them were personnel from the Secret Service and the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence, who took video of the protest. Some DEA and Oakland police officers recorded the protest, while others dressed in plainclothes provided intelligence from within the crowd to OPD’s Emergency Operations Command Center at 1605 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

The documents indicate FBI involvement in monitoring the Oscar Grant protests as early as January 2009. A police report included in the case file of Holly Noll, a 24-year-old activist who plead no contest to charges of assaulting a police officer, shows the FBI was providing intelligence to OPD on the movements of “black bloc” anarchists in Downtown Oakland on the night of Jan. 14, 2009, when the second protest agitating for Johannes Mehserle’s arrest erupted into property destruction and clashes with police.

Oakland Police Officer Scott Seder’s report from that night indicates specific FBI interest in “anarchists.” The report reads as follows:

“OPD [Oakland Police Department] radio announced a communications order stating the FBI advised groups of anarchists, described as MW [male, white], 17-25 years old, wearing black and red clothing, were en route to the protest and planned to commit acts of violence and vandalism adjacent to the main demonstration.”

Jose Luis Fuentes, an attorney at Siegel & Yee, the law firm that is defending those arrested in the July 8 protests, believes the involvement of state and federal agencies in intelligence gathering is part of a larger effort to scrutinize political protest. “They’re trying to build a case against ‘black blocs’ or anarchists as domestic terrorism,” said Fuentes. “The federal government wants to know who’s protesting. They’re documenting who the agitators are. This is all COINTELPRO resurfacing.”

The Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO, was an extensive federal operation that ran from the 1950s through the 1970s monitoring political activists, sometime using law enforcement to harass and discredit everyone from the National Association of Colored People to the Ku Klux Klan who federal authorities considered dangerous.

An unidentified officer records protesters behind a line of Oakland police officers at 12th Street and Broadway on July 8, 2010. – Photo: Ali Winston
But law enforcement personnel who worked the Oscar Grant protests say federal involvement had nothing to do with a political ideology and everything to do with keeping civilians and critical infrastructure sites safe and preventing disorder.

Oakland Police Capt. David Downing, who was in charge of “Operation Verdict,” the police response to the July 8 post-verdict protests, says the handful of federal agents were nothing more than extra eyes among the several hundred law enforcement officers working on July 8.

“Their only job was to be out there and videotape, be observers and feed information,” said Downing. The DEA, California DOJ and Secret Services agents were a fraction of the several hundreds of law enforcement agents from across Northern California who took part in Operation Verdict.

Much like several police departments provided officers to assist with crowd control, the state and federal agencies brought their investigative capacities to the table, as well as equipment. The FBI and DEA both offered helicopters for air support.

Documents indicate that anarchists were on everyone’s mind.

In a running police log from the July 8 protests and in emails exchanged between OPD command staff in the days prior, there is extensive mention of potential acts of property destruction and violence by “anarchists.” The log was later forwarded to the Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center. “They were interested in the event,” said Capt. Downing.

During previous protests about the Oscar Grant case, media reports focused on property destruction allegedly perpetrated by “black bloc” anarchists.

“They’re a concern,” said Capt. Downing. “They don’t really care about the cause other than using the mask of a large mob to engage in property damage.”

Defense attorney Jose Luis Fuentes remains convinced the intelligence gathered during Operation Verdict was part of a broader effort to intimidate political protest. The subtext is, “If you’re going to protest and violate any law, we might prosecute you federally,” Fuentes said.

A Nov. 16 primer on “Anarchist Extremism” on the FBI’s website describes the Bureau’s general policy on anarchists:

“Currently, much of the criminal activities of anarchist extremists fall under local jurisdiction, so they’re investigated by local police. If asked by police, the Bureau can assist. But we have a heavy presence at a major national or international events generating significant media coverage – that’s when the threat from anarchist extremists, as well as others who are up to no good, dramatically increases.”

According to an OPD investigative log, the FBI explored the possibility of charging some of the July Oscar Grant protesters federally.

FBI Special Agent Russell Romero contacted OPD on July 21 to set up a meeting about the July 8 incident. On July 27, Agents Romero and Kari McInturf met with OPD investigators “to see if federal charges can be brought.” Romero and McInturf obtained a list of all the July 8 arrestees and their charges from OPD. To date, no federal charges have been filed.

The Informant, a product of KALW News (91.7 FM and kalwnews.org) in San Francisco, goes deep into cops, courts and communities, giving you informed, intelligent, community-oriented news, conversation and analysis. Informant reporters Rina Palta and Ali Winston can be reached at rpalta@gmail.com. Learn more about the case of Holly Noll, aka Holly Works, at http://sfbayview.com/2010/justice-for-oscar-grant-jan-6-8-in-la-jan-13-in-oakland/.

4 thoughts on “Police files reveal federal interest in Oscar Grant protesters, especially ‘anarchists’

  1. TheObamaDeception

    It may be even worse than what “The Informant” thinks. Did The Informant see this episode of Jesse Ventura’s “Conspiracy Theory”,” that was banned from TruTV?

    Reply
  2. JamesMorris

    Yep I bet there were a few people at the Grant rally that had nothing to do with the cause. I'm sure more than a few had criminal records. Help the community to get the bad guys off the streets..

    Reply
  3. Dan Clore

    There is a great deal of misunderstanding of the nature
    of anarchism.

    Anarchists (also known as libertarians or libertarian
    socialists, in the original sense of socialism as worker-
    ownership-and-control of the means of production)
    oppose illegitimate authority and hierarchy, and therefore
    oppose capitalism and the state; anarchists do not oppose
    all organization: anarchists favor voluntary, non-
    hierarchical, self-organization. Anarchists do not oppose
    all rules and laws; anarchists oppose rules and laws
    imposed involuntarily by illegitimate authorities, such
    as the state, and favor voluntarily-agreed-upon rules and
    laws.

    Illegitimate organizations that anarchists oppose include
    governments, corporations, IFIs (international financial
    institutions, such as the World Bank, IMF, WTO, etc.),
    and fundamentalist churches and cults.

    Forms of voluntary self-organization that anarchists favor
    affinity groups, direct action protest groups, militias,
    networks, collectives, credit unions (cooperative/mutual
    banks), labor unions, free skools, workers cooperatives,
    intentional communities, mutual aid organizations, and so
    forth, all on basis of voluntary membership and non-
    hierarchical self-management, generally employing
    direct democracy or consenus-based decision making.

    "Anarchy 101", an excellent introduction to anarchism,
    can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2fq4d2

    "An Anarchist FAQ", giving an in-depth treatment of
    anarchism, can be found here: http://www.anarchistfaq.org/

    *****

    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo/

    Reply
  4. frank

    ur an ass. over 300 arrest and counting over a corporate owned foot locker? Fed investigations? You don't see the big picture. from the inside of your ass.

    Reply

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