Homeland Security Has Been Monitoring Black Lives Matter

Homeland Security Has Been Surveiling Black Lives Matter

According to documents obtained by The Intercept via a Freedom of Information Act request, the Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring the Black Lives Matter movement, by collecting data relating to public protests, vigils, and other events, and information from social media accounts.

According to The Intercept, Homeland Security has been monitoring the movement since protests in Ferguson, MO erupted last August following the death of Michael Brown. DHS, which is supposed to investigate terrorism, also monitored the National Moment of Silence vigils that took place around the country on August 14th. These were peaceful vigils meant to honor those who have died at the hands of police.

DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee explained their reasoning in an email to The Intercept:

“The Department of Homeland Security fully supports the right of individuals to exercise their First Amendment rights and does not provide resources to monitor any specific planned or spontaneous protest, rally or public gathering. The DHS National Operations Center statutory authority (Section 515 of the Homeland Security Act (6 U.S.C. § 321d(b))) is limited to providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture for the federal government, and for state, local, tribal governments as appropriate, in the event of a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster, and ensures that critical terrorism and disaster-related information reaches government decision-makers.”

However, Baher Azmy from the Center for Constitutional Rights says that what Homeland Security calls “providing situational awareness” is really just surveillance:

“What they call situational awareness is Orwellian speak for watching and intimidation,” said Azmy. “Over time there’s a serious harm to the associational rights of the protesters and it’s an effective way to chill protest movements. The average person would be less likely to go to a Black Lives Matter protest if the government is monitoring social media, Facebook, and their movements.”

I wish I could say that I was surprised that the government is surveilling Black Lives Matter, but I’m not. The FBI has a history of investigating peaceful environmental activists, even though eco-terrorism has declined over the years. In May, The Guardian reported that the FBI violated it’s own rules when investigating activists who are against the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The FBI monitored Tar Sands Blockade, a group that according to their website uses nonviolent direct action to protest the pipeline.The FBI has also investigated members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. They were suspected of being associated with terrorist organizations, but to date no one from the organization has been charged.

Instead of wasting their time surveilling peaceful activists, perhaps the FBI and homeland security should spend more time and resources on threats that are actually real, such as right wing terrorism. Personally, I’m much more afraid of those who attack abortion clinics or open fire in black churches than Black Lives Matter activists. Research center New America found that “nearly twice as many Americans have been killed by right-wing extremists since 9/11 as have died at the hands of radical Muslims on US soil.”

Black Lives Matter is a movement that is challenging the racist systems that enable the abuse and murder of black people on a daily basis. Their purpose is to save lives, change the system, and work for liberation from white supremacy. They are not a terrorist group, and they should have the right to organize and assemble without surveillance or intimidation.

Feature image via The All-Nite Images/Flickr.

Keziyah is a progressive feminist from Florida. She teaches English as a Second Language by day and watches Netflix by night. She is moving to Saudi Arabia very soon and is not sure how that makes her feel. Find her on Twitter @KeziyahL.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App

Keziyah is a progressive feminist from Florida. She teaches English as a Second Language by day and watches Netflix by night. She is moving to Saudi Arabia very soon and is not sure how that makes her feel. Find her on Twitter @KeziyahL.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App