[Pnews] FBI investigated civil rights group as 'terrorism' threat and viewed KKK as victims

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sun Feb 3 15:34:04 EST 2019


https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/feb/01/sacramento-rally-fbi-kkk-domestic-terrorism-california?fbclid=IwAR1DzhEUjRHaajvwM-mmAY0R7iwbBXsCRhCRKM0MebjPmfUBs3uV6QmKIRE 



  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 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/25/yvette-felarca-trump-protest-charges-activism> 
at the white supremacist rally 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/26/white-nationalist-rally-stabbings-california>, 
according to documents obtained by the Guardian. The FBI’s Bamn files 
reveal:

  *

    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 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/26/white-nationalist-rally-stabbings-california>. 
Although numerous neo-Nazis were suspected of stabbing at least seven 
anti-fascists in the melee, leaving some with life-threatening injuries 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/25/neo-nazi-rally-california-stabbing-police-target-black-activist>, 
the FBI chose to launch a inquiry into the activities of the leftwing 
protesters.

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 
on Bamn.

“It’s clear the FBI dropped the investigation having no evidence of 
wrongdoing. It never should have been opened in the first place,” Driver 
said.

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 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/09/california-police-white-supremacists-counter-protest> 
to identify counter-protesters, pursued charges against stabbing victims 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/05/antifa-charges-california-activists-stabbing> 
and other anti-fascists, and decided not to prosecute any men on the 
far-right 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/25/california-police-neo-nazis-antifa-protest> 
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 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/25/california-police-neo-nazis-antifa-protest> 
(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 
<https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/06/14/chaldean-detainees-deportation/102850914/>, 
frequently protesting at public events and organizing rallies 
<https://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/10/11/young-protesters-voice-support-daca-bamn-rally-uc-berkeley-campus>.

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 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/05/antifa-charges-california-activists-stabbing> 
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 
2016.

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 
history”.

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 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/10/standing-rock-fbi-investigation-dakota-access>, 
surveillance of black activists 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/11/rakem-balogun-interview-black-identity-extremists-fbi-surveillance>, 
and spying on peaceful climate change protest 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/13/fbi-climate-change-protesters-iowa-files-monitoring-surveillance->ers 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/13/fbi-climate-change-protesters-iowa-files-monitoring-surveillance->. 


The justice department inspector general previously criticized 
<https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/09/oig-fbi-inappropriately-tracked-domestic-advocacy-groups/63276/> 
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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