FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Imran Siddiquee, MediaJustice, [email protected]
Washington D.C. – A delegation of Black-led organizations will meet with members of Congress today to urge action addressing the FBI’s and other agencies’ targeting of Black activists through the use of threat designations like “Black Identity Extremist” (BIE). The advocates will deliver petitions signed by over 100,000 online activists and a letter addressed to the heads of three key House committees, calling on them to subpoena the FBI and hold a hearing to expose how law enforcement agencies have used the BIE designation since it was first introduced, and subsequently attempted to conflate Black dissent with white supremacist organizing.
“The ‘Black Identity Extremist’ designation, just as COINTELPRO did 50 years ago, facilitates the improper surveillance of Black activists, while also criminalizing Black dissent. Police violence towards Black people has been a generational American issue, that has been well documented and witnessed around the world. Instead of responding to the outcry in a manner to rectify a history of state-sanctioned violence, the FBI has chosen to criminalize any black person who rightfully demands accountability and reform,” said Myaisha Hayes, a National Field Organizer at MediaJustice. “The FBI’s intelligence assessment confirms what so many people already feel about law enforcement in this country – that is not meant to serve and protect us. I am hopeful today that our Congressional Leaders will intervene and stand us with to protect Black dissent.”
The delegation is led by MediaJustice and features representatives from Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Black Lives Matter Memphis, Highlander Research and Education Center, and Media Mobilizing Project. The petitions have been compiled from a coalition of leading advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Free Press, Demand Progress, MPower Change, Defending Rights & Dissent, 18 Million Rising, Generation Justice, May First/People Link and Racial Justice Action Center.
The FBI’s 2017 Intelligence Assessment, “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers,” was disseminated to at least 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide. In response to a request by MediaJustice, under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) for records about the Intelligence Assessment, the FBI refused to search for certain records and disclosed only heavily-redacted documents. MediaJustice and the ACLU subsequently sued, and today’s delegation is escalating that pressure by calling on Congress to intervene. Today’s letter is addressed to Rep. Elijah Cummings (Chair of the House Oversight & Reform Committee), Rep. Jerry Nadler (Chair of the House Judiciary Committee), and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (Chair or the House Homeland Security Committee).
The following statements are from members of today’s #ProtectBlackDissent delegation:
Adjoa A. Aiyetoro, J.D. (Black Identity Extremist Abolition Collective): “Conflating white supremacist violence with black activists calling for racial justice supports white supremacy. By doing so, the United States government minimizes, in fact supports, the violence done by white supremacists in attempting to maintain a racially oppressive system and devalues black people’s constitutional rights to equal and fair treatment.”
Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson (Highlander Research and Education Center): “On March 29th, my office burned down and a symbol of the white power movement was found spray-painted in the parking lot. An office that many of my staff and I have slept in, made memories in, and housed precious keepsakes in. This attempt to stop our work at the Highlander Center, through destruction and intimidation, can in no way be compared to the lifesaving, beloved community building work of Black activists protesting injustice. The danger in the FBI conflating White supremacist terrorism with Black activists protesting injustice is that white supremacist terrorism is rooted in provoking fear, hatred and harm, while Black activists protesting injustice is demanding that our communities, our country, and our world live up to it’s greatest potential where everyone has the human right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Read about the ACLU and MediaJustice lawsuit: https://www.aclu.org/blog/racial-justice/race-and-criminal-justice/fbi-wont-hand-over-its-surveillance-records-black