Jeff Sessions and the FBI are working to undermine Black organizers. Which is why we have been suing the FBI and Homeland Security to release documents demonstrating their years of surveillance and criminalization of our movements.
We can win this case, but we need your help. Lawsuits like this can take months or even years. They’re hoping that we’ll back down before we can win.They’re hoping we run out of resources and money. We can’t let that happen. Will you join the legal fund to fight against anti-Black surveillance and become a sustaining donor?
On Tuesday, Jeff Sessions was intensely grilled by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) about the FBI’s fallacious “Black Identity Extremist” classification – a nonsense term the FBI uses to intentionally conflate Black activists and organizers with dangerous domestic terrorist organizations, like the KKK and violent neo-Nazi groups.1
When asked whether he believes there is an organization of Black people that identify themselves as “Black Identity Extremists” and whether they have committed violence against police officers Sessions invented an unnamed Black group he claims killed four police officers in the last year.2 When asked whether he’s using the “Black Identity Extremist” classification to illegally surveil the movement for Black lives – Sessions refused to comment.
Even though Sessions refuses to come clean about the extent of the government’s anti-Black surveillance, we have the power to force the FBI to answer us through our lawsuit. We can win this case, but we need your help. Lawsuits like this can take months or even years. They’re hoping that we’ll back down before we can win. They’re hoping we run out of resources and money. We can’t let that happen.
Government surveillance of Black organizes serves not only to keep tabs on our people, but also to intimidate from fighting for justice. Surveillance is a tool of fear. It is a tactic to reinforce white supremacy. Again and again, we’ve seen these agencies target activists of color for simply demanding an end to police violence:3
- In 2015, DHS revealed they had been tracking protesters and attendees of the Funk Music Parade, in Washington, DC and a walk to end breast cancer in a historically Black neighborhood.4 5
- Before the Republican National Convention last year, the FBI and DHS agents went door-to-door to the homes of Black Lives Matter activists and community organizers in Cleveland, Ohio, to interrogate them about their protest plans.6
- In 2014, a FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force surveilled a December 2014 BLM protest at the Mall of America.7
The new “Black Identity Extremist” classification will make this surveillance even easier. This surveillance violates the First Amendment, chilling protesters from speaking out, and is eerily reminiscent of the surveillance of the Black Panther Party under FBI’s notorious and illegal COINTELPRO program.
Because of these revelations, in 2016, we decided to file a lawsuit in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights after the FBI and DHS refused to disclose documents about their surveillance of people protesting police brutality and racial injustice. Winning this lawsuit will uncover documents that show a long-standing agency culture that criminalizes Black dissent and paints Black protest as a domestic terror or extremist threat.
The “Black Identity Extremist” classification seeks to make being Black and against police violence a crime. But being Black and exercising our right to protest are not crimes, let alone activities that justify being monitored or repressed by counterterrorism units. We have the right to know how and why the federal government is surveilling our constitutionally protected protests of police violence and we will not stop until we get answers and end these illegal tactics.
Until justice is real,
— Brandi, Rashad, Arisha, Johnny, Evan, Jade, Corina, Chad, Saréya and the rest of the Color Of Change team.
1. “‘Jeff Sessions Knows There Are Definitely Black Terror Groups but Can’t Seem to Remember Any White Ones,” Splinter News, 14 November 2017. https://act.colorofchange.org/
2. “Rep. Karen Bass blasts Jeff Sessions over Justice Department report on ‘black identity extremists’,” RawStory, 14 November 2017. https://act.colorofchange.org/
3. “EXCLUSIVE: FEDS REGULARLY MONITORED BLACK LIVES MATTER SINCE FERGUSON,” The Intercept, 24 July 2015. https://act.colorofchange.org/
4. “Homeland Security Is Tracking Black Lives Matter. Is That Legal?,” Mother Jones, 30 July 2015. http://act.colorofchange.org/
5. “EXCLUSIVE: FEDS REGULARLY MONITORED BLACK LIVES MATTER SINCE FERGUSON,” The Intercept, 24 July 2015. https://act.colorofchange.org/
6. “FBI AND POLICE ARE KNOCKING ON ACTIVISTS’ DOORS AHEAD OF REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION,” The Intercept, 23 July 2016. https://act.colorofchange.org/
7. “WHY WAS AN FBI JOINT TERRORISM TASK FORCE TRACKING A BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTEST?,” The Intercept, 12 March 2015. https://act.colorofchange.org/