From local police outfitted with military-grade equipment, to nonviolent protesters jailed on terrorism charges, the spectacle of state repression has become an increasingly visible part of the Black liberation struggle in U.S. cities. Police and prisons have long served as a conduit for stamping out Black-led protest movements, especially when those movements openly challenge capitalism and state power. Between the 1960s and 1980s, for example, local, state and federal law enforcement coordinated massive campaigns to dismantle radical groups like the Black Panthers, Republic of New Afrika and Black Liberation Army, using long prison sentences to take their members off the map.
Seals was shot to death in 2016, then set on fire in his car in an unsolved murder. Local St. Louis media outlet the Riverfront Times obtained a declassified copy of the more than 900-page FBI report on Seals. The FBI fully redacted approximately 860 of the pages, and partially redacted parts of the remaining roughly 45 pages. In the report, the FBI called Seals “a self-described revolutionary who has espoused somewhat militant rhetoric and has access to weapons.” The Riverfront Times article shows how the FBI used local police to harass Seals. In June 2016, the activist was “investigatively detained” by local police who pulled over Seals in his car on FBI orders. Seals had proudly described himself on his Twitter account as a “Revolutionary, Activist, Unapologetically BLACK, Afrikan in AmeriKKKa.”
Once again, Black activists and organizers are demanding our society transform itself and land on the right side of history. However, the state has chosen to greet this opportunity with increased violence and surveillance, doubling down on its commitment to undermine and disrupt Black-led movements for justice by criminalizing & attacking them. When the FBI was exposed for labeling participants of the Ferguson & nationwide uprisings “Black Identity Extremists,” we recognized the spirit of J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO was alive and well. Is this the legacy that the U. S. government wants to uphold? 60+year-old patterns of social change and state repression are yet again active.
Anton Flores thought it would be simple to help someone get their water turned back on. "I had a single mom, who was undocumentable, whose utilities had been cut off, and she came to me," Flores, an immigration activist in the small Georgia city of LaGrange, said. He helped new immigrants navigate unfamiliar systems frequently. He figured all they had to do was come up with the money—so they did. Together, they went down to the municipal utility office. But it turned out, getting utilities turned on in LaGrange was a lot more complicated than having the money to pay. In fact, for the undocumented woman in question, it was impossible: with no social security number, the municipal clerk denied her request.
An activist and West Philadelphia teacher is facing federal charges related to rioting surrounding the George Floyd protests in Philadelphia this past June. Eyewitness News has learned that Anthony Smith, of West Philadelphia, has been arrested and faces multiple federal charges related to the civil unrest. Law enforcement sources confirmed Smith’s arrest, along with the community group he represents, Philly for Real Justice. “Early Wednesday morning Federal agents raided the West Philadelphia home of Anthony Smith, an outspoken community activist and a leader in the movement for Black lives in Philadelphia...
The failed NYPD raid that brought riot cops, police dogs and helicopters to a prominent Black Lives Matter activist's home on Friday was sparked by his alleged crime of shouting into an officer's ear with a megaphone nearly two months ago. Derrick Ingram, the 28-year-old co-founder of the Warriors in the Garden collective, said he awoke to cops with the NYPD's warrant squad banging at his door at 7 a.m. on Friday. For the next five hours, dozens of officers — stationed outside Ingram's apartment in Hell's Kitchen, on his fire escape and in a neighboring unit — urged him to surrender, claiming they had a warrant, but declining to provide one.
Ariam Tekle had just begun co-hosting a podcast about black identities in Italy when, in late May, George Floyd was killed in police custody and a series of Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the United States. That outcry for social change resonated across the Atlantic, hitting many cities in Europe with unprecedented force, including her hometown of Milan. And for local black communities, the protests became an opportunity to speak out about issues of endemic racism beyond the U.S. experience. “We stand in solidarity with what is happening in the U.S., but we also want this to be a starting point to openly confront racism at home that is no less alarming than police brutality in America,” Tekle, a 31-year-old documentary filmmaker, says.
In 2017, a leak from the FBI revealed they were targeting black activists organizing to end racist policies and practices calling them "Black Identity Extremists." This is consistent with the FBI's long history of investigating and harassing black and brown activists. Organizations like Media Justice and the ACLU have been working to get information from the FBI about what they are doing and who they are targeting but the FBI has been putting barriers in their way. We speak with Myaisha Hayes of Media Justice about what they have learned so far and its impact on activists. Hayes also discusses their efforts to urge Congress to stop federal funding for surveillance of people exercising their constitutional rights and to educate activists about ways to protect themselves.
As Black activists around the country lead protests for racial justice, following the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people, MediaJustice and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today reveal that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is still surveilling Black activists using a dated designation they testified to Congress was no longer in use. Of one million pages of documents, responsive to a FOIA request filed by MediaJustice and the ACLU, up to one-third of the pages are on open investigations of Black people as “domestic terrorist” threats for potential “Black identity” activities. Today, more than 100 civil rights organizations sent a letter urging Congress to cease federal funding for surveillance technologies, known to be disproportionately deployed in communities of color.