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FBI gives green light to crack down on Black Lives Matter protesters – BLM statement follows

July 21, 2016

Following this story is a Black Lives Matter statement on the murder of police and escalating protests to end state-sponsored violence against Black people

by Mara Verheyden-Hilliard

The violent events of the past week have placed the country at a decisive moment. Words matter but deeds matter more. Leadership matters.

BLM 07.21 Everywhere #FreedomNow posterPresident Obama spoke about the need for real change and new “practices” following the murders by police officers of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

He followed that by stating last weekend, “One of the great things about America is that individual citizens and groups of citizens can petition their government, can protest, can speak truth to power. And that is sometimes messy and controversial but, because of that ability to protest and engage in free speech, America over time has gotten better. We’ve all benefited from that.”

But the real truth is that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, under the Obama administration, are continuing to fuel and encourage a repressive crackdown on peaceful demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights and moving for social change in America.

Last weekend, Baton Rouge’s African-American community was repeatedly assaulted by the police as people attempted to peacefully protest the killing of Sterling. The Baton Rouge police were given the green light by President Obama’s FBI to approach this peaceful protest as they would an enemy force. This has been the dangerous pattern of the FBI and other federal law enforcement efforts in the past few years: to suppress social movements in coordination with local police departments.

While the arrests were carried out by local police, federal law enforcement agencies facilitated and laid the groundwork for the anti-free speech crackdown.

The real truth is that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, under the Obama administration, are continuing to fuel and encourage a repressive crackdown on peaceful demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights and moving for social change in America.

The suppression and dispersal of a peaceful protest is emblematic of the methods used to extinguish free speech rights of those communities seeking to redress issues of racial and economic inequality.

Here’s what happened and why:

The FBI works through local law enforcement to shut down dissent. Here, Ieshia Evans is detained during a demonstration near police headquarters in Baton Rouge on July 9, 2016. When the 28-year-old mother of a 6-year-old, who’d never before been an activist, told her son she’d been arrested, he said, “I thought only bad people go to jail.” – Photo: Reuters

The FBI works through local law enforcement to shut down dissent. Here, Ieshia Evans is detained during a demonstration near police headquarters in Baton Rouge on July 9, 2016. When the 28-year-old mother of a 6-year-old, who’d never before been an activist, told her son she’d been arrested, he said, “I thought only bad people go to jail.” – Photo: Reuters

More than 100 peaceful protesters were arrested by police on Saturday. Police repeatedly swept into the crowd like a paramilitary force dressed as robots, giving no audible instructions and snatching people for arrest. More were arrested on Sunday by police who moved in wearing riot gear and plastic face masks, and banged their batons against riot shields in threatening unison.

By 12 a.m. on Sunday, July 10, the city was under a virtual lockdown. Businesses closed down early in response to the police actions in the streets. Local law enforcement had clearly received the go-ahead to suppress those in the community who were demanding justice.

The police treated Baton Rouge’s Black community like an enemy rather than Americans exercising the cherished rights. President Obama spoke about the right to assemble and redress grievances, but the message that the protestors were the enemy was broadcast by the FBI.

The FBI’s New Orleans Field Office circulated an alert to local law enforcement on July 7 titled “Violence Against Law Enforcement Officers and Riots Planned for 8-10 July 2016.” This document consisted of a few unsourced and inflammatory images that appear to be screen grabs from random social media postings. No such riots took place anywhere over the weekend, and despite widely circulating that the peaceful demonstrators were bent on violence, not a single law enforcement entity cited any credible evidence of such a threat or plot. But the bulletin gave local law enforcement – implicitly or explicitly – the green light for repression.

The message of repression is clear: If you rise up and protest against police abuse in Baton Rouge, be prepared to go to jail, be assaulted, have to come up with hundreds of dollars in bail money, find a competent attorney, and then to go through the system and endure the consequences of having a record marked by arrest and possible conviction. Many individuals who don’t have the resources end up having to plead out and accept some fine, probation or even jail time.

Black Lives Matter held protests all over the country on July 20, which were expected to continue the following day. Here, protesters chain themselves to the headquarters of the National Fraternity of Police and are still standing strong after 12 hours. – Photo: Autumn B. Williams, Twitter

Black Lives Matter held protests all over the country on July 20, which were expected to continue the following day. Here, protesters chain themselves to the headquarters of the National Fraternity of Police and are still standing strong after 12 hours. – Photo: Autumn B. Williams, Twitter

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund’s (PCJF) Freedom of Information Act investigations carried out over the last five years in particular have shown that the FBI, DHS, Fusion Centers and other federal law enforcement agencies regularly label peaceful protest as terrorist activity and also concoct violent potential scenarios to justify the widespread surveillance of and crackdown on the social justice movement and dissenters. Such an abuse of counter-terrorism authority, it should be noted, is accompanied by a wide abuse in counter-terrorism funding, in the form of billions of dollars in agency budgets and private federal contracts.

Relating directly to Louisiana, a PCJF investigation into federal monitoring of the Occupy Wall Street movement discovered that the ATF and U.S. Marshals Service were both actively involved in stimulating an “extremism” scare among local law enforcement. After soliciting 70 State Fusion Centers for information about violence stemming from the Occupy movement, the New Orleans ATF Field Intelligence Group received “overwhelming negative responses.” The agency nonetheless manufactured “several scenarios where escalation to violence could occur.”

A similar PCJF investigation found such conduct from the FBI in its decade-long monitoring of School of the Americas Watch, a human rights organization founded by pacifists aiming to end the U.S. role in the militarization of Latin America. Despite internal FBI reports admitting the “peaceful intentions” of the SOA Watch leaders, the agency justified their work on the basis that “a militant group would infiltrate the protestors and use of the cover of the crowd to create problems.” Yet they admitted that, “at this time, there are no specific or known threats to this event.”

PCJF exposed the role of the FBI in a national operation that involved field offices across the country targeting the peaceful Occupy movement, which was ultimately extinguished in cities and towns across the United States with more than 7,000 arrests.

Now that playbook is being followed with the Black Lives Matter movement. While the Justice Department and President Obama have repeatedly spoken of building unity between local police and the Black community and claim to be in favor of the right to dissent and protest, in practice, the FBI, which is under their control, is ratcheting up tensions and laying the groundwork for repression.

Protesters blocked entry to the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. – Photo: @KarlRodrigue, Twitter

Protesters blocked entry to the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. – Photo: @KarlRodrigue, Twitter

The pattern is clear: Federal and local law enforcement target the First Amendment-protected activities of social justice movements because they pose a political threat, not a violent one. Regardless of the fact that the activities of these movements are constitutionally protected, U.S. domestic and federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies operate with a methodology that helps justify repression and a false media presentation. It also contributes to the right-wing and racist smear against the BLM movement amplified by talk radio and politicians.

The people of this country should not allow the Dallas shootings, which local and federal law enforcement all agree were carried out by a deranged lone gunman, to be manipulated into an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement.

The pattern is clear: Federal and local law enforcement target the First Amendment-protected activities of social justice movements because they pose a political threat, not a violent one.

PCJF demands that the FBI and other intelligence entities stop treating peaceful protesters as potential violent threats. It is well past time for the Obama administration and Congress to reign in the unchecked abuse of power and authority that led to the circulation of last weekend’s false bulletin about Black Lives Matter protests. The federal agencies that are carrying out fear-mongering and circulating exaggerated and concocted reports about Black Lives Matter free speech actions are effectively giving a green light for local law enforcement to sweep protests off the streets.

It is not too late for President Obama, in his final months in office, to have his deeds match his words. In his speech last week, he reiterated that “America over time has gotten better” because people have taken to the streets to protest and “speak truth to power.”

No one should believe for a second that this vital tradition of protest is going to stop. On the contrary, it is growing. The question is whether the FBI and other federal government law enforcement agencies are going to use their vast authority and power to set up pretexts justifying one confrontation after another with grassroots movements seeking change.

It is not too late for President Obama, in his final months in office, to have his deeds match his words. In his speech last week, he reiterated that “America over time has gotten better” because people have taken to the streets to protest and “speak truth to power.”

That path will succeed only in intensifying polarization and ever-graver conflicts. Such tactics will not succeed in extinguishing social movements, whose existence is caused by unmet needs, racial and economic disparities, and the absence of justice for so many.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard is a constitutional rights litigator and executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, 617 Florida Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001, 202-232-1180. This story previously appeared on Alternet, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and Resumen English.

#FreedomNow: Eyes on the Prize

by the Movement for Black Lives

Millions of people have found purpose, community and even victories through the Movement for Black Lives. At a time when politicians don’t fight for us, laws don’t protect us and many in the media continue to malign us, our movement is our collective love letter to each other. We are called to defend the collective dignity of our families and those who we may never know. This is love in action.

From the U.K. to South Africa, the push to demand the human rights of Black people has been inspired by the bravery and tenacity of our movement here.

Black Lives Matter activists chain themselves to the Detroit Police Department’s Third Precinct. – Photo: @BYP_100, Twitter

Black Lives Matter activists chain themselves to the Detroit Police Department’s Third Precinct. – Photo: @BYP_100, Twitter

We are changing the very fabric of this country and the conditions of our world. We are putting our bodies on the line for the safety and wellness of our people. We still have so much left to accomplish.

Still, these are troubling times. The deaths of law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas have opened up attacks on our movement.

This movement has never called for the execution of law enforcement officers. Never. Still, many want to place the blame at our feet. As those who stand with, or are ourselves, the victims of police violence, we know all too well the deep sense of loss that a community feels when they lose a loved one.

Our movement is about people working together to bring forth the change we want to see every day. In every community meeting, every door knocked, every march, every act of civil disobedience and every rally, Black people are taking care of one another in the face of brutal police violence.

Across the country, we take to the streets for our dignity, only to find that police continue to gas us, beat us, arrest us and, in some cases, kill us. And in this movement, we transform into families who are healing the wounds of those whose names we do not know, but whose survival cannot be separated from our own.

Millions of people have found purpose, community and even victories through the Movement for Black Lives.

And yet, we see great hypocrisy in the attempts to blame this movement for violence against the police. When police are killed, there is public and national mourning, attempts to strengthen laws to ensure their lives. There are convictions of the people who caused their deaths.

But when our lives are taken, there is no such national mourning. As of yet, there are no stronger laws to protect our lives. Less than .01 percent of police who kill our family members ever face any consequences. While many of us do not see the criminal justice system as a place where redemption and restoration can occur, the fact still remains that 1 million Black people are currently held behind bars for nonviolent offenses, while the great majority of police officers who kill our people never face a single sanction – instead they receive the sympathy and empathy of our nation.

It’s worth asking: Who stands to gain if elected officials, law enforcement and those in the media succeed in tying these incidents to the hopes and dreams of millions of Black people in this country? Democracy is at risk, and we owe it to ourselves to call this out for what it is: an attempt to keep us from winning the dignity we deserve.

BLM protesters shut down the Police Officers Association headquarters in Oakland for 13 hours. On the Black Lives Matter Bay Area Facebook page is this note: “After a 13-hour shutdown of the police union office, the police supply store and the police credit union, we wanted to leave something special. We left our locks and chains ... around the doors.” – Photo: KGO-TV

BLM protesters shut down the Police Officers Association headquarters in Oakland for 13 hours. On the Black Lives Matter Bay Area Facebook page is this note: “After a 13-hour shutdown of the police union office, the police supply store and the police credit union, we wanted to leave something special. We left our locks and chains … around the doors.” – Photo: KGO-TV

We are fighting for a different kind of world, one in which Black folks stand united, in a deep, abiding love for our people. One where our eyes and our hearts are open, and stay open. A world in which we dare to see the humanity in each other, even when we are encouraged to withhold it from one another.

That work is not always easy. We may never know what truly motivated two young Black men who decided to take unilateral action and shoot law enforcement officers. And we won’t participate in gossip or empty speculation.

We do know that, like many Black people, they were veterans who served in our nation’s military. It bears mentioning that this history is a complicated one. For as long as Black folks have served in our nation’s armed forces, they have often returned to find a country that is unwilling to treat them with dignity and respect –  in or out of uniform.

While their actions are not aligned with the stated goals of this movement, many in this country share a deep sense of frustration at watching law enforcement continue to kill and abuse with impunity – and at a political system that refuses to take bold action to stop it.

We too ask who is responsible for this, but more importantly, what will be done to stop it? Our movement did not train these young men to carry out these killings. We have been clearly and consistently focused on ending violence, specifically violence sanctioned by the state – not fueling a continuation of it. That’s not what this movement is designed for, but it is a role played by our U.S. military.

Indeed, there is a clear failure here. But, it does not belong to those whose feet march toward justice. This is a political failure at every level.

We are fighting for a different kind of world, one in which Black folks stand united, in a deep, abiding love for our people.

What will be done to ensure the emotional and mental health of Black people forced to confront racism each and every day of our lives? Who will be courageous enough keep hospitals, clinics and schools open? For many of us, the impact of racism is simply too much to bear.

We must face a harsh reality: Every day that elected officials refuse to act, lives are put at risk. They cannot and must not escape accountability and responsibility.

In Chicago, protesters against the Fraternal Order of Police chose to shut down Homan Square, the notorious old police warehouse, where for decades, under the direction of the infamous Lt. Jon Burge, police tortured people they detained. – Photo: @RicWilson, Twitter

In Chicago, protesters against the Fraternal Order of Police chose to shut down Homan Square, the notorious old police warehouse, where for decades, under the direction of the infamous Lt. Jon Burge, police tortured people they detained. – Photo: @RicWilson, Twitter

This is not a time for empty calls for healing and forgiveness, political grandstanding and endless commentary. As we know from South Africa, there is no reconciliation without truth.

The problem facing our country isn’t the diverse group of people who are concerned and angry about our people being murdered. The problem is that this kind of violence is agreed upon by our elected officials and our representatives and is condoned by our laws and our government; and we know they condone it because they refuse to take action to stop it.

It’s time that our elected officials stop spending endless amounts on policing, when we know that more police with military grade weapons won’t end violence, won’t lift our communities into true safety and won’t bring about the healing they say they care about.

Politicians can give impassioned speeches, but our budgets tell the truth. Across our country, billions are disproportionately spent on failed policing strategies, while our schools are closed, our neighborhoods decline, our homes crumble, our prisons grow and our earning opportunities disappear. Enough.

It is up to our president and elected officials around the country to act. To keep police unions from blocking meaningful progress toward ending this scourge of violence. To shift resources from broken law enforcement strategies into community needs. We deserve safety beyond policing.

Nearly 200,000 people have taken the pledge to stand with The Movement for Black Lives – a movement that is a container for the dreams of millions of people who hope to build a better world for ourselves and for the generations who will come after us. It is in this movement that so many have committed to a different kind of civic duty: to speak up, to take action and to dissent in the face of oppression. We are doing our part, we will continue to do our part, and we need everyone to join the fight.

We are unbowed in this commitment. And we will not stop until freedom. The lives of too many hang in the balance.

With Love,

The Movement for Black Lives

Join the Movement. Take the Pledge.

Signed by the Movement for Black Lives, Black Lives Matter, Organization for Black Struggle, St. Louis Action Council, Project South, Black Youth Project 100, Blackout Collective, Million Hoodies for Justice, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). An Action Toolkit is available HERE. Call 216-206-7795 or email movementforblacklives@gmail.com with any questions or specific action planning support.

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6 thoughts on “FBI gives green light to crack down on Black Lives Matter protesters – BLM statement follows

  1. private

    BLM routinely has some members acting criminally when they intentionally block vehicular or pedestrian traffic. The right to protest does not grant the right to subject the driving public to FALSE IMPRISONMENT. See definition below:

    “any person who intentionally restricts another's freedom of movement without their consent (and without legal justification) may be liable for false imprisonment, which is both a crime and a civil wrong. It can occur in a room, on the streets, or even in a moving vehicle—just as long as the subject is unable to move freely, against his or her will.”

    At each such illegal protest the police should not only arrest and charge the offenders, but also make public the names of everyone involved. A legal fund should be established to assist any driver who was illegally detained to be able to sue each law breaking protester individually.

    Its time for law abiding citizens to "take back our streets".

    Reply
  2. mike radant

    They need to build thousands of more private prisons to lock up millions more subhuman nigger beasts! Niggers deserve slavery, ghettos, prison and extermination!

    Reply

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