"I'm probably on some government list for my rhymin." Talib Kweli
The Root and Vice News report that:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has monitored the Twitter account of prominent civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, referring to him as a "professional protester" who is "known to law enforcement," according to documents obtained by VICE News in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.As reported in Intercept last month, the Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring the Black Lives Matter movement. Intercept reports that:
Mckesson's Twitter and other social media accounts were being monitored by DHS last May during the height of the protests in Baltimore that followed the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was critically injured while in police custody. DHS took note when McKesson, a former Minneapolis public school official and an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement, posted details to his Twitter account about a planned protest in Baltimore.
One email said DHS "social media monitors have reported that a professional demonstrator/protester known to law enforcement (Deray Mckesson) has post on his social media account that there is going to be a 3:00 pm rally at the FOP#3 lodge located @ 3920 Baltimore Ave, Baltimore, MD 21211 … This is early raw unevaluated and uncorroborated reporting at this time."
The Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring the Black Lives Matter movement since anti-police protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri last summer, according to hundreds of documents obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request.During the 60s and 70s, the FBI implemented Cointelpro, the Counter Intelligence Program. Cointelpro was designed to "to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder." Even nonviolent civil rights leaders and organizations were targeted. Under Cointelpro, not only did the FBI monitor black leaders and black organizations, it destroyed them. Many black leaders were jailed and even killed by the FBI.
The documents, released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Operations Coordination, indicate that the department frequently collects information, including location data, on Black Lives Matter activities from public social media accounts, including on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine, even for events expected to be peaceful. The reports confirm social media surveillance of the protest movement and ostensibly related events in the cities of Ferguson, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and New York.
They also show the department watching over gatherings that seem benign and even mundane. For example, DHS circulated information on a nationwide series of silent vigils and a DHS-funded agency planned to monitor a funk music parade and a walk to end breast cancer in the nation’s capital...
Brendan McQuade, a visiting assistant professor at DePaul University who researches the DHS’s intelligence-gathering fusion centers, believes that the DHS and its affiliated counterterror organizations monitor Black Lives Matter to such a exacting degree because the terrorist threats they were created to stop are exceedingly remote. “Fusion centers were set up for counterterrorism, but it became ‘all crimes, all threats, all hazards’ because terrorism isn’t a real threat. You are four times more likely to be struck by lighting than killed by a terrorist,” says McQuade. “Even at their moment of emergence it was clear that counterterrorism wasn’t going to be enough.”
Raven Rakia, a journalist who investigates state surveillance and policing, said that the DHS’ decision to monitor Black Lives Matter is hardly surprising, given the federal government’s well documented history of spying on and suppressing black social movements and groups like the Black Panthers. “There’s a long history of the federal agencies, especially the FBI, seeing black resistance organizations as a threat to national security,” says Rakia.
Mitchell, the Blackbird activist, says that this continuing surveillance serves not only to keep tabs on black activists, but also to deter them from pushing forward. “Surveillance is a tool of fear. When the police are videotaping you at a protest or pulling you over because you’re a well known activist — all of these techniques are designed to create a chilling effect on people’s organizing. This is no different. The level of surveillance, however, isn’t going to stop us. After all, we organize because our lives depend on it.” (Emphasis added)
Today, even with a black man in the White House, the government continues to target black activists. With the advent of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it is far easier to monitor black leaders and organizations. History teaches us that surveillance is only the beginning of the repression. Just for peacefully organizing to end police brutality, we are treated like terrorists.
As a result of the so-called War on Terror, the government's ability to monitor American citizens has increased substantially. Our fear of foreign Arab terrorists made it easy for us to voluntarily surrender some of our civil liberties. When the Arabs and Muslims were targets of surveillance, no one cared. Now that is us again, we have no choice but to care. The struggle continues.