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FBI Greenlights Crackdown On Black Lives Matter Protesters

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FBI Greenlights Crackdown On Black Lives Matter Protesters

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Penn State student Zaniya Joe wears a piece of tape over her mouth that says "Black Lives Matter" during a Ferguson protest organized by a group of Penn State University students on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, in University Park, Pa. (Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/TNS)

Published with permission from Alternet.

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

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 12am 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.

The Partnership for Civil Justive 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.

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.

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 lead 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 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. 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.

Note: As of Monday morning, the police have not filed charges or bail amounts for the release of many of those arrested. Loved ones of those arrested over the past two nights have been gathering in front of the Parish Prison to receive word. The National Lawyers Guild in Louisiana is playing a major role in defending those arrested.

 

Photo: Penn State student Zaniya Joe wears a piece of tape over her mouth that says “Black Lives Matter” during a Ferguson protest organized by a group of Penn State University students on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, in University Park, Pa. (Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/TNS)

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11 Comments

  1. johninPCFL July 13, 2016

    Parish Prison, AKA Guantanamo, Louisiana, where you’re guilty until proven innocent.

    Reply
    1. Daniel Jones July 13, 2016

      No, where you’re guilty of being black without permission.

    1. Siegfried Heydrich July 13, 2016

      That’s just Otto pretending he’s a man . . .

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth July 14, 2016

        That’s the best he can do–pretend to be a man.

    2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth July 14, 2016

      Otto, what is the clinical nature of your illness? Are you capable of intelligent conversation or are you only restricted to childish videos that express your deepest anxieties and inherent racist tendencies.

      I fear that there is a terrible fate that awaits you, in both this world and in the world to come just based on the nature of your detestable behavior and diseased thinking process. Each video like this may turn out to be an indelible black mark on your record inscribed on chrysolite tablets and which may very well be played before you in perpetuity as your only companion in the worlds beyond.

      I would love to see the doctor’s analysis of your ailment. Can you display a chart of her/his assessment of your illness?

    3. King of America July 14, 2016

      Haha I get it; you’re an un-American traitor.

  2. AgLander July 13, 2016

    BLM is a terror organization. They have been financed with 33 million by non other than George Zoros, the New World Order/United Nations guru. What are BLM’s demands? They have none…..they simply want to bring down the capitalist system our country is identified with since 1776 and replace it with more government controlled system where misery will rein and we lose our very identity as a nation which will make Zoros’s job a lot easier…..he didn’t drop 33 million in BLM because he’s a nice guy……he wants a return on his money.

    Reply
    1. Samala Henry July 13, 2016

      Look liar, if the Black Lives Matter Movement had an infusion of $33 million, there would not be a need to raise bail money for protesters. And 1776 is the time when the founding fathers committed treason against their British government in order to establish their own tyrannical government in which the poor, women, and people of color were not even considered human.

      1. AgLander July 14, 2016

        You sound like a disciple of the American hating George Soros and support his goal to wipe out all vestiges of our national identity and slide us under the New World Order/United Nations rule……hate and anarchy drives the movement so I guess that makes you a hater.

  3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth July 14, 2016

    The country has been inexorably dissolving for centuries now despite technological advances and relatively improved social behavior, but no legislative, executive, or judicial process alone or in tandem can address the problem on its most fundamental level—that level is at the “heart”, and the mind.

    Political resources can create/alter laws, judges can adjudicate cases involving the unraveling of America, the executive branch can enforce laws and ensure proper behavior. But these measures address the symptoms, and often quite well; but they don’t touch the heart. There is, and has been, only one agent that has had the power to transmute the “copper” of barbarism into the “gold” of a praise-worthy character.

    Educators in a school setting can inform us of the history of racism and other brutal expressions of human behavior, and they can elaborate on the merits of a society motivated by virtues like compassion, empathy, and the like; but that knowledge often stays at the intellectual level informing the brain but doesn’t inform the heart and mind to a sufficient degree to effect a transformation of society; only those Divine Educators who each have sparked change to the point of jump-starting the rise of New Civilizations and New Societies.

    Otto the Goat is an excellent example, along with several others in this forum alone, to show the depth of depravity currently gnawing away at whatever semblance of humanity remains in those who are rushing with delight towards a precipice into the abyss of obsolescence and a form of extinction. Political leaders are incapable of adequately addressing what ails such as Trump, “Otto the Goat”, and “AgLander”, and countless others, except to censure them or proscribe their range of influence.
    .
    Trump is an appropriate guinea pig and is playing a key role, unbeknownst to him, in alerting us to what level of depravity the country has sunk to. His reactionary and maniacal impulses mirror what a vast majority feels and thinks; the status quo senses instinctively the same change in the air and, as they’ve always done since Biblical times, are zealously guarding their turf and their special privileges which for the most part have been garnered at the expense of others.

    Education is important— on a secular AND a spiritual level as seen in the following excerpt from a Tablet by Baha’u’llah. As you read the words, think of Trump, Otto the Goat, and others and see if you can see the stark contrast between what is preferred behavior and thinking, as opposed to a decadent and misanthropic manner of behavior that is prevalent today both here and abroad:

    “Man is the supreme Talisman. Lack of a proper education hath, however, deprived him of that which he doth inherently possess. Through a word proceeding out of the mouth of God he was called into being; by one word more he was guided to recognize the Source of his education; by yet another word his station and destiny were safeguarded. The Great Being saith: Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom. If any man were to meditate on that which the Scriptures, sent down from the heaven of God’s holy Will, have revealed, he would readily recognize that their purpose is that all men shall be regarded as one soul, ….”

    The education Baha’u’llah is referring to is one that informs us of sciences and arts, mathematics, history, literature, and the like, AND an education regarding the acceptance and cultivation of spiritual values and concepts. One without the other is only a partial education and fails to make the individual and society whole.

    Just saying.

    Reply

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