[Pnews] FBI investigated civil rights group as 'terrorism' threat and viewed KKK as victims
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sun Feb 3 15:34:04 EST 2019
Revealed: FBI investigated civil rights group as 'terrorism' threat
and viewed KKK as victims
Sam Levin - February 1, 2019
The FBI opened a “domestic terrorism” investigation into a civil rights
group in California <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/california>,
labeling the activists “extremists” after they protested against
neo-Nazis in 2016, new documents reveal.
Federal authorities ran a surveillance operation on By Any Means
Necessary (Bamn), spying on the leftist**group’s movements in an inquiry
that came after one of Bamn’s members was stabbed
at the white supremacist rally
according to documents obtained by the Guardian. The FBI’s Bamn files
The FBI <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/fbi> investigated Bamn
for potential “conspiracy” against the “rights” of the “Ku Klux
Klan” and white supremacists.
The FBI considered the KKK as victims and the leftist protesters as
potential terror threats, and downplayed the threats of the Klan,
writing: “The KKK consisted of members that some perceived to be
supportive of a white supremacist agenda.”
The FBI’s monitoring included in-person surveillance, and the agency
cited Bamn’s advocacy against “rape and sexual assault” and “police
brutality” as evidence in the terrorism inquiry.
The FBI’s 46-page report on Bamn, obtained by the government
transparency non-profit Property of the People
<https://propertyofthepeople.org/> through a records request, presented
an “astonishing” description of the KKK, said Mike German, a former FBI
agent and far-right expert who reviewed the documents for the Guardian.
The report ignored “100 years of Klan terrorism that has killed
thousands of Americans and continues using violence right up to the
present day”, German said. “This description of the KKK should be an
embarrassment to FBI leadership.”
Shanta Driver, Bamn’s national chair, criticized the investigation in a
statement to the Guardian, saying, “The FBI’s interest in BAMN is part
of a long-standing policy … Starting with their campaign to persecute
and slander Dr. Martin Luther King, they have a racist history of
targeting peaceful civil rights and anti-racist organizations, while
doing nothing to prosecute the racists and fascists who attacked Dr.
King and the movement he built.”
The FBI launched its terrorism investigation and surveillance of Bamn
after white supremacists armed with knives faced off with hundreds of
counter-protesters, including Bamn activists, at a June 2016 neo-Nazi
rally in Sacramento
Although numerous neo-Nazis were suspected of stabbing at least seven
anti-fascists in the melee, leaving some with life-threatening injuries
the FBI chose to launch a inquiry into the activities of the leftwing
The documents, though heavily redacted, did not include any conclusions
from the FBI that Bamn violated laws or posed a continuing threat. Its
members have not faced federal prosecution. The FBI declined to comment
“It’s clear the FBI dropped the investigation having no evidence of
wrongdoing. It never should have been opened in the first place,” Driver
The 2016 rally was organized by two white supremacist groups: the
Traditionalist Worker party (TWP) and an affiliated California entity,
the Golden State Skinheads. California law enforcement subsequently
worked with the neo-Nazis
to identify counter-protesters, pursued charges against stabbing victims
and other anti-fascists, and decided not to prosecute any men on the
for the stabbings.
The FBI appeared to have adopted a similar approach. In a redacted
October 2016 document, the FBI labeled its Bamn investigation a “DT
[domestic terrorism] – ANARCHIST EXTREMISM” case. The FBI’s San
Francisco office wrote that it was investigating allegations that
“members of Bamn attended a Ku Klux Klan rally and assaulted a Nazi
supporter”. It summarized the Sacramento incident this way:
In 2016, law enforcement learned that the Ku Klux Klan would be
holding a rally at the State Capitol Building … The KKK consisted of
members that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist
agenda. In response, a number of groups mobilized to protest the
rally. Flyers were posted asking people to attend in order to shut
down the rally.
The KKK and Traditionalist Worker party have similar ideologies but are
distinct groups. It’s unclear why the FBI labeled the rally a KKK event.
The FBI’s report also appeared to obfuscate details about the political
affiliations of stabbing perpetrators and victims, saying: “Several
people were stabbed and hospitalized.” That’s despite the fact that
California police investigators reported that neo-Nazis were seen on
camera holding knives and fighting with counter-protesters
(who suffered severe stab wounds).
The FBI file said its research into Bamn found that the group “lawfully
exercised their First Amendment rights by engaging in peaceful
protests”, but added that its “members engaged in other activity by
refusing to disperse, trespassing in closed buildings, obstructing law
enforcement, and shouting during and interrupting public meetings so
that the meetings could not continue”.
Bamn has long advocated for racial justice and immigrants’ rights
frequently protesting at public events and organizing rallies
The FBI report said it was “possible the actions of certain BAMN members
may exceed the boundaries of protected activity and could constitute a
violation of federal law”.
The “potential violations of federal law”, the FBI said, included
“conspiracy against rights” and “riots”. The FBI cited Bamn’s website,
which encouraged supporters to protest against the KKK*,* featured
slogans like “SMASH FASCISM!” and “NO ‘FREE SPEECH’ FOR FASCISTS!”, and
celebrated the “mass, militant demonstration” that “shut down” the
neo-Nazi rally. The FBI also included screenshots of Bamn pages that
referenced a number of the group’s other advocacy issues, including
campaigns against “rape and sexual assault” and “police brutality”.
The FBI files further included mentions of Yvette Felarca, a Bamn member
who was stabbed at the rally, but is now facing state charges of assault
and rioting. (Her lawyers have argued in court that the police
investigators and prosecutors were biased against anti-fascists
and worked to protect neo-Nazis).
Driver, who is also Felarca’s attorney, said the FBI should have
mentioned that Felarca was “stabbed and bludgeoned by a fascist in
Sacramento”. She added: “Instead of finding the person who assaulted
anti-racist protesters, the FBI chose to target BAMN, which by their own
admission holds demonstrations that are protected by the First Amendment.”
The bureau’s justifications of the investigation and surveillance were
disturbing, said Ryan Shapiro, executive director of Property of the
People. “The FBI discovered that these protesters once shouted at a
meeting and somehow that evidence was mobilized to support a
full-fledged terrorism investigation,” he noted.
In November 2016, the FBI engaged in surveillance of a protest outside
the Berkeley school district, according to the Bamn files. Due to the
redactions, it’s unclear whom the FBI was watching, though the report
noted that the FBI observed “several children … sitting outside … with
signs next to them”.
The FBI report said its investigation and surveillance were not
“intended to associate the protected activity with criminality or a
threat to national security, or to infer that such protected activity
itself violates federal law”. The report continued:
However, based on known intelligence and/or specific, historical
observations, it is possible the protected activity could invite a
violent reaction towards the subject individuals or groups, or the
activity could be used as a means to target law enforcement. In the
event no violent reaction occurs, FBI policy and federal law
dictates that no further record be made of the protected activity.
Property of the People’s records requests broadly sought FBI documents
on anti-fascists. The FBI did not release additional Bamn records beyond
The FBI’s insinuation that Bamn’s actions could provoke violence was
odd, said German, the former FBI agent, who is now a Brennan Center
fellow. He noted that it was white supremacists “who have used this
tactic for decades” and said the violent provocations of rightwing
groups were well known when he worked on domestic terrorism for the FBI
in the 1990s. The Bamn report, he said, gave the “appearance of
favoritism toward one of the oldest and most active terrorist groups in
He added that the report should have made clear that the “KKK consists
of members who have a bloody history of racial and antisemitic violence
and intimidation and is known for staging public spectacles for the
specific purpose of inciting imminent violence”.
Asked**whether the Bamn investigation was ongoing and whether the FBI
had opened any equivalent inquiry into the neo-Nazis in California, an
FBI spokesperson said the bureau does not confirm or deny the existence
of specific investigations. “We cannot initiate an investigation based
solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, natural origin, religion, or
the exercise of First Amendment rights,” the FBI said in a statement.
“The FBI does not and will not police ideology.”
The bureau “investigates activity which may constitute a federal crime
or pose a threat to national security”, the statement added.
The Bamn case follows numerous recent controversies surrounding the
FBI’s targeting of leftist groups, including a terrorism investigation
into Standing Rock activists
surveillance of black activists
and spying on peaceful climate change protest
The justice department inspector general previously criticized
the FBI for using non-violent civil disobedience and speculation of
future crimes to justify terrorism investigations against domestic
advocacy groups, German noted, adding that the Bamn files suggest the
FBI “seems to have learned nothing from these previous overreaches”.
Even knowing the FBI’s legacy of going after activists, the report was
still shocking, said Shapiro.
“A bunch of anti-fascists showed up at a Nazi rally and were attacked by
Nazis, and the response from the bureau was to launch a domestic
terrorism investigation into the anti-fascists,” he said. “At its core,
the FBI is, as it has always been, a political police force that
primarily targets the left.”
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