Category Archives: Black Live Matter

The FBI Is Once Again Profiling Black Activists Because of Their Beliefs and Their Race Being upset that police kill black people could get you labeled a “black identity extremist.”

Janine Jackson: Demonstrations continue in St. Louis, Missouri, over the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of first degree murder charges in the 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith. Very likely some protesters would tell you they are distraught and angry, not just about this case, but about the undeniable fact that US law enforcement rarely pay any penalty for murdering black people, whatever the circumstance. According to an FBI intelligence assessment recently leaked to Foreign Policy, that may make those people “black identity extremists.”

The report, written up by Foreign Policy’s Jana Winter and Sharon Weinberger, was dated August 3, nine days before the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The report assesses that

it is very likely black identity extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African-Americans spurred an increase in premeditated retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement, and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.

If that sounds to you like a set-up — a pretense by which anyone protesting police brutality is ipso facto guilty of extremism that calls for action by the “counterrorism division” of the country’s most powerful law enforcement — well, you aren’t alone with those concerns.

Nusrat Choudhury is senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. They’re pursuing the issue. She joins us now by phone. Welcome to CounterSpin, Nusrat Choudhury.

Nusrat Choudhury: Thank you so much for having me.

What can we say about how the FBI seems to be defining “black identity extremists,” and the vagueness of that term, that we’re all sort of laugh/crying about, could that be the point of it, in some way?

Well, the report is disturbing on so many levels, not the least of which is that it’s a red flag that the Bureau is once again profiling black activists because of their beliefs and their race. And we know that there’s a long history in this country of the FBI using the fear of threats, real or perceived, as a cover for profiling black people, and in particular black civil rights leaders and activists. This report doesn’t make sense, and it raises that red flag that this is happening, yet again, to today’s modern-day black civil rights movement leaders.

I’m going to ask you a little about that history, but what, on the face of it, is what they’re calling evidence for the existence of — I mean, the assessment says, we’re talking about criminal activity; that’s different from protected activity, but what is their evidence for the existence of a “black identity extremist” movement, and then the definition of that as a violent movement?

Right. So the definition is so confusing that it’s really hard to discern, but it seems to be circular. The FBI talks about six separate violent incidents in this internal report, and then appears to assume, it literally “makes a key assumption,” that those incidents were ideologically motivated. And then it even contradicts itself to acknowledge that those six incidents appear to have been influenced by more than one ideological perspective. Yet it concludes that there is some kind of unitary “black identity extremist” threat, I would say a so-called threat.

And what this does is raise lots of questions from the public, from black people, black activists, and certainly the ACLU, and that’s why the public needs to know: What does this term even mean, what’s the basis for it, and what’s the FBI doing after creating this designation? That’s why we have joined with the Center for Media Justice in filing a Freedom of Information Act request, seeking all documents that use this term, as well as other terms that have historically been used as a guise for surveilling black people and black activists.

We know that the general public responds differently when you label something “terrorism,” when you label something “extremism,” and that that impact is meaningful. You know, this sounds like kind of Alice in Wonderland: “If I stab you and you object, you are an anti-stabbing extremist.” But we know from history that a tool doesn’t have to be precise to be used: You don’t have to sharpen a knife if you’re going to use it as a club. So what are the concerns about the way this new designation — even if everybody kind of scoffs at it — how do we think it might potentially be used?

The FBI, when it releases a report like this internally, that kind of labeling of a so-called threat can be the basis for additional surveillance, investigations and law enforcement activity. So creating this new label, even on the basis of these flawed assumptions, these conclusions that don’t make sense on the face of the report, could lead to further surveillance and investigative activity, not just by the FBI, but even by other federal, state and local law enforcement who share information with the FBI.

So for good reason, black people and especially black activists are really concerned. They want to know what this is being used to do, and they have really good reasons to fear that it’s going to be used to promote further law enforcement scrutiny of their First Amendment–protected activities, and even potentially result in racial profiling.

You mentioned the relevant history here. Can you tell us some of that history, which doesn’t go — it starts in the past, but it continues up to the present. What is some of the FBI’s history in this regard, that raise questions for folks?

The federal government and the FBI in particular kept files on civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960s and ’70s. We know that even more recently, since 9/11, that the federal government, including the FBI, kept information on American Muslim civil rights leaders and academics. As recently as 2005 and 2006, state law enforcement were exposed for infiltrating and monitoring peaceful political protests.

So there’s this history of targeting people because of their race, as well as because of their beliefs, and often at that intersection are black activists, more recently also American Muslim leaders and activists. This is a history we know so well, and the exposure of this report needs to be a catalyst to get more information, and really just to demand that this stop.

And I know folks will be thinking COINTELPRO, which is, of course, a program against black activists in the ’50s and ’60s and even into the ’70s, most famously known for targeting Martin Luther King, but also taking aim at other civil rights organizations.

Absolutely. And that history is a long, sordid one; it has been exposed. It involved extensive surveillance of people who were deemed “black extremists” or “black nationalists” in that covert FBI COINTELPRO program. But creating a new label and just extending that type of surveillance to the modern day, we know what the harms are, and that’s not what the federal government should be doing.

We also know that people within federal, state and local law enforcement have been raising concerns about far-right violence, and about violence by white nationalists and white supremacists, those types of threats. So at a moment when there are many people in the intelligence community stating that those threats are on the rise, why is the FBI creating a new designation for a so-called threat of “black identity extremists,” without sound methodology or conclusions that the threat even exists?

I certainly see the problem that a lot of folks are pointing out, saying that they’re lumping together various groups. And I also, though, appreciate the comments of Hari Ziyad on Afropunk. They talked about our desire to find a meaning in the violent/nonviolent distinction, and they said — one of the cases that the assessment cites is Micah Johnson, who killed police officers. And Ziyad says:

Because there aren’t too many Micah Johnsons, we reason, “extremists” like him can continue being unethically bombed by robots as long as we don’t get bombed too. But black people always get bombed, literally and figuratively, in an anti-black world, and no amount of distance between us and black “extremists” will change that.

In other words, the supposed safety that we’re offered, if we are not like those extreme black people, doesn’t exist. And it seems to me an important point, because I think, again, those who are not immediately impacted may buy the idea that they aren’t going after black people, they aren’t going after black activists, only violent people, and that seems an important distinction to kind of play with, or to at least interrogate.

I think that’s right, and the public wants safety; people want law enforcement to focus on true threats, and true threats of violence, right? But what the FBI is doing is talking about “extremism,” and what is that? People are allowed to have beliefs, and there’s a lot of evidence out there that just having a radical or extreme idea does not show that people will actually engage in violent conduct. But using that label with broad brush strokes, and linking it to black identity, is exactly the kind of overbroad categorization that can lead to racial profiling, and targeting people because of their beliefs.

Finally, you note that the ACLU, along with the Center for Media Justice, have filed a FOIA request, a kind of what-the-heck-is-going-on-here request. What are you hoping to learn, and what’s our way forward?

This FOIA is a tool really for the public. And the Center for Media Justice, which consists of black activists and folks who are really at the forefront of doing that protest work, they are partners with us in this effort. We’re hoping to get documents that will shed light on exactly how this term is being used, how often it’s being used, what other types of investigations or surveillance have been conducted as a result of the creation of this kind of designation.

And in the past, similar FOIA efforts have shown that the FBI has mapped racial and ethnic communities, and given more insight into exactly what the FBI is doing with the dramatic and vast tools at its disposal. So we’re hoping to get that information. If we don’t, we will push for that information, using the tools that the Freedom of Information Act provides.

We’ve been speaking with Nusrat Choudhury from the ACLU Racial Justice Program. You can follow their work online at ACLU.org. Nusrat Choudhury, thank you so much for joining us today on CounterSpin.

Thank you so much for having me.

By Janine Jackson / FAIR

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Colin Kaepernick files grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding against him

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who remains unemployed after a 2016 season in which he began the movement of players protesting during the national anthem, has filed a grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding to keep him out of the league, his legal representatives said.

Kaepernick retained Los Angeles-based attorney Mark J. Geragos to pursue the collusion claim and, according to a person with knowledge of the filing, it will be Kaepernick’s outside legal representation and not the NFL Players Association primarily in charge of preparing and presenting his case.

Geragos’s firm confirmed the grievance, saying it filed “only after pursuing every possible avenue with all NFL teams and their executives.”

In a statement, the law firm’ also said: “If the NFL . . . is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful political protest — which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago — should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government. . . . Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance.”

 

The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ union prohibits teams from conspiring to make decisions about signing a player. But the CBA also says the mere fact that a player is unsigned and evidence about the player’s qualifications to be on an NFL roster do not constitute proof of collusion.

For that reason, such cases are difficult to prove, according to legal experts.

“There has to be some evidence of an agreement between multiple teams not to sign a player,” said Gabriel Feldman, the director of the sports law program at Tulane University. “Disagreement over personnel decisions, as obvious as it may seem to someone looking at this, does not provide evidence of collusion. There has to be some evidence of an explicit or implied agreement. There has to be proof of a conspiracy.”

Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers following last season, making him a free agent eligible to sign with any team. The 49ers have said they would have released Kaepernick rather than retaining him under the terms of that deal. He has remained out of work, being passed over by other teams in favor of other quarterbacks. The Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens considered signing Kaepernick but decided against doing so.

More recently, the Tennessee Titans signed Brandon Weeden to provide depth behind backup Matt Cassel when their starting quarterback, Marcus Mariota, was hurt. That signing seemed particularly inflammatory to Kaepernick supporters who cited Kaepernick’s superior career accomplishments. Kaepernick has led the 49ers to a Super Bowl and two NFC championship games and he threw 16 touchdown passes with four interceptions for them last season.

The NFLPA issued a written statement late Sunday saying it learned of Kaepernick’s grievance through media reports and that it had learned the league previously was informed of Kaepernick’s intention to file the grievance.

“Our union has a duty to assist Mr. Kaepernick as we do all players and we will support him,” the NFLPA’s written statement said, adding that it had been in regular contact with Kaepernick’s representatives over the past year about his options and planned to schedule a call for this week with his advisers.

Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before games last season to protest, he said, racial inequality and police mistreatment of African Americans in the United States. Those protests were taken up by other players and the controversy over them has been amplified this season even with Kaepernick out of the league.

President Trump called on NFL owners to “fire” players who protested during the anthem, referring to such a player as a “son of a bitch.” Vice President Pence walked out of a game last week between the 49ers and Colts in Indianapolis, citing players’ protests. Trump indicated that he had orchestrated that plan.

Under pressure from the White House, NFL owners are scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday in New York and might seek the NFLPA’s support of a measure for players to stand for the anthem, according to multiple people familiar with the sport’s inner workings, while also pledging league support for players’ community activism efforts.

Some media members have contended since the offseason that Kaepernick was being blackballed by NFL teams based on his political stance. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and owners were asked about that contention on a number of occasions and denied that teams were acting in concert on Kaepernick because of his protests.

“Each team makes individual decisions on how they can improve their team,” Goodell at conclusion of NFL owners’ meeting in May in Chicago. “If they see an opportunity to improve their team, they do it. They evaluate players. They evaluate systems and coaches. They all make those individual decisions to try and improve their team.”

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told reporters in July, according to the Palm Beach Post: “I would sure hope not. I know a lot’s been written about it, but you know owners and coaches — they’ll do anything it takes to win. If they think he can help them win, I’m sure — I would hope they would sign him.”

The plan for Kaepernick to pursue a grievance under the CBA was first reported by Bleacher Report.

“It may seem obvious to Colin Kaepernick,” Feldman said in a phone interview Sunday. “It may seem obvious to someone on the outside looking at this. But collusion requires an agreement [between teams]. Individual team decisions are not challengeable under the anti-collusion provision. An arbitrator is not going to second-guess an individual team’s personnel decision.”

If such evidence of collusion by NFL teams against Kaepernick exists, it has yet to revealed.

“We don’t know,” Feldman said. “Obviously everybody is talking about the baseball collusion cases from the 1980s, where there was a smoking gun. There were notes. There was strong evidence. There may be evidence here of collusion. We just don’t know.”

The NFL declined to comment Sunday through a spokesman.

“No Club, its employees or agents shall enter into any agreement, express or implied, with the NFL or any other Club, its employees or agents to restrict or limit individual Club decision-making,” the CBA says, adding that applies to “whether to negotiate or not to negotiate with any player” and “whether to offer or not to offer a Player Contract to any player,” among other things.

The CBA also says: “The failure by a Club or Clubs to negotiate, to submit Offer Sheets, or to sign contracts with Restricted Free Agents or Transition Players, or to negotiate, make offers, or sign contracts for the playing services of such players or Unrestricted Free Agents, shall not, by itself or in combination only with evidence about the playing skills of the player(s) not receiving any such offer or contract, satisfy the burden of proof set forth … above.”

By Mark Maske/WashingtonPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

FBI warns ‘black identity extremists’ pose growing threat to law enforcement

FBI Intelligence Assessment document: "Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers," dated Aug. 3, 2017.FBI Intelligence Assessment document: “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers,” dated Aug. 3, 2017. (FBI)

While white supremacists were planning to rally in Charlottesville, Va., the FBI’s counterterrorism unit identified “black identity extremists” as a growing threat, it has been revealed.

The FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, which dubbed the group BIE, said “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement,” according to an Aug. 3 report obtained by Foreign Policy.

Citing Michael Brown’s 2014 death in Ferguson, Mo., as the catalyst, the FBI listed specific cases, saying it was “likely the BIE suspects acted in retaliation for perceived past police brutality incidents.”

Among them was Micah Johnson, a former Army reservist who shot dead five Dallas police officers during a peaceful protest against police violence last year.

There have been 98 law enforcement fatalities this year so far, compared to 102 during the same period last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Among the fatalities in 2017, 36 were firearms-related– down from 44 this time last year– while the vast majority were attributed to traffic accidents, fires, illnesses and other causes.

In comparison, 748 people have been shot and killed by police in 2017, according to a database maintained by the Washington Post.

The term “black identity extremists” appears to be a new term, and some contested the phrase for suggesting a cohesive, overarching ideology.

One former homeland security official told Foreign Policy, “They are grouping together Black Panthers, black nationalists, and Washitaw Nation.”

“Imagine lumping together white nationals, white supremacists, militias, neo-Nazis, and calling it ‘white identity extremists,” the official said. “The race card is being played here deliberately.”

Malcolm Nance, a counterterrorism expert who served in the U.S. Navy, wrote on Twitter, “I train law enforcement intelligence in counterterrorism all over nation & “Black Identity Extremism” doesn’t exist. It’s a made up term.”

Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson pointed to the FBI’s long history of surveilling black activists, highlighting his own personal experience with the FBI visiting his home and told FP, “This is not surprising.”

The FBI, which issued a report in May warning white supremacist violence was growing, identified BIE as a threat just nine days before far-right groups descended on Charlottesville.

President Trump was heavily criticized for his response after three people died, saying there were “fine people” on both sides.

BY
JESSICA CHIA/NYDailyNews

Posted by The NON-Conformist

An Ill-Advised Lawsuit Against Black Lives Matter Activists

Last July, Gavin Long, a black, 29-year-old former Marine, ambushed police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three officers and wounding three more before being killed. Now one of the wounded, who was rendered permanently disabled in the shooting, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Black Lives Matter movement and activists including DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie, whom he blames for inciting the attack.

Image: Time Magazine

The unnamed police officers’ injuries were so grave, and so grievously unfair, that it’s not hard to understand this officer’s urge to hold someone accountable. But blaming Black Lives Matter is wrong.

Passages like the following are typical of the complaint:

In 2016, as a leader of BLACK LIVES MATTER, DERAY MCKESSON and the other Defendants planned the Summer of Chaos, Weekend of Rage, and used the internet and social media to organize, stage and orchestrate protests and to attend and/or lead multiple protests and violence that accompanied the protests including, among many others, those in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; McKinney, Texas; Dallas, Texas; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The Baton Rouge protests, in large part, took place outside the Baton Rouge Police Department located in front of the former Woman’s Hospital on Airline Highway. This place is the same area where this shooting took place.

More from The Atlantic

Posted by Libergirl

Real News Network: Only Community Control Will Stop Police from Killing with Impunity

Posted by Libergirl…too many black men dead unnecessarily….I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around it so I’m repressing it….One day five years now I’ll be drinking a cup of coffee and I’ll just snap.

US: Congress Should Reject ‘Back the Blue Act’

Would Shield Police From Accountability, Not Protect Them

Police in riot gear block a roadway to stop demonstrators from entering a neighborhood as they protest the police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., September 25, 2016.

Police in riot gear block a roadway to stop demonstrators from entering a neighborhood as they protest the police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., September 25, 2016.

© 2016 Reuters

(Washington, DC, May 23, 2017) – Congress should reject a bill that would severely reduce the ability of people in the United States to hold police officers accountable for abuses, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. The bill would also reduce incentives for police agencies to prevent rights violations.

The Back the Blue Act of 2017 (SB 1134/HR 2437) was introduced on May 16, 2017, by Senator John Cornyn and Representative Ted Poe, both of Texas. It proposes to significantly weaken a key rights protection statute, Section 1983 of the US Code, by limiting the ability of victims of illegal and unjustified police violence to receive compensation for harm. Specifically, the bill would limit liability in situations in which the victim had had some involvement with a felony or “crime of violence,” including property damage. Police are already protected from liability if the use of force is justified. Section 1983 lawsuits have been a primary way for ordinary people to hold police and government officials answerable for violations of their rights. They have also provided an important incentive for police departments to prevent abuses by their officers.

“This bill would not protect police officers from danger,” said John Raphling, senior criminal justice researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, it protects police departments from accountability, and removes important incentives for those departments to monitor themselves and improve the quality of their policing.”

In addition to limiting the right to recover damages inflicted by unjustified police violence, the bill would make all assaults on police officers, even very minor ones, federal crimes subject to severe mandatory minimum sentences. Such mandatory minimums prevent judges from using their discretion to ensure that sentences are reasonable and proportionate to the gravity of the offense committed. The bill would also expand the federal death penalty to cover police killings, even in states that choose not to impose death as punishment under state law, while removing certain habeas corpus and other legal protections that are essential to preventing wrongful convictions and executions.

“Under the guise of protecting officers, this bill would make police less accountable, which can only undermine their legitimacy with the communities they serve,” Raphling said. “Congress should reject this dangerous bill.”

From Human Rights Watch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Killer Cops Get Immunity, No Matter Who’s in the White House

 

Related image
Image: africanamerican.org

Two courtroom events this week serve to remind us that, no matter which party’s president is in the White House, the right to life and liberty does not apply on the streets of Black America, where the police enjoy effective immunity from prosecution. On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it would not file charges in the death of Alton Sterling, the 37 year-old Black man who was shot to death by cops while helpless on the ground in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last year. Also on Tuesday, the Justice Department and South Carolina officials accepted a former cop’s guilty plea to the charge of using excessive force when he shot 50 year-old Walter Scott five times, while he was running away after a traffic stop, in North Charleston, South Carolina. Both killings were recorded in gruesome detail on video. But, when it comes to killer cops, the best of evidence is never enough.

More from Black Agenda Report

Posted by Libergirl