This week, our MediaJustice campaign, #ProtectBlackDissent, is bringing a delegation of Black activists to Washington, D.C. to meet with and encourage members of Congress to use their leadership to end the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism designation, “Black Identity Extremist.” Our delegation members are Black and brown activists and MediaJustice Network members from the Highlander Research and Education Center, Black Lives Matter’s Memphis chapter, Media Mobilizing Project, Black Alliance for Just Immigration and MediaJustice ally Demand Progress.
Nearly two years ago, Foreign Policy leaked an FBI Intelligence assessment entitled “Black Identity Extremist Likely Motivated To Target Law Enforcement.” In this report, we learned that the FBI, without any real evidence, asserts that the “perception of police brutality” within the Black community has spurred a violent movement against law enforcement. In addition to citing the public outcry in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown, the FBI also attempts to connect six isolated incidents of violence against the police by Black people as further evidence of a growing domestic terrorist threat, they named “Black Identity Extremist.” In other words, the FBI is targeting black activists and black-led organizations, not because of any real trend of violence, but because of their race and beliefs.
The FBI’s intelligence assessment was disseminated to 18,000 local law enforcement agencies, who were encouraged to see Black-led protests and activism as threats or expressions of anti-police violence, rather than a righteous response to the cruelty and injustice of police brutality that has been well-documented and witnessed around the world for several generations. This attack on our freedom of speech and our right to dissent moved us into action. Following the release of this report, MediaJustice in partnership with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program filed a FOIA request to uncover further information about the FBI’s surveillance of Black activists.
When the FBI refused to disclose the information we requested, we sued and launched our #ProtectBlackDissent campaign earlier this year. Along with 8 organizations, including several MediaJustice Network members, we circulated a petition demanding the FBI turn over these documents and abolish the designation. In response to the mounting pressure from our coalition and so many other coalitions, the Director of the FBI announced in a June House Homeland security meeting that they are no longer using the BIE designation. While this is an important step, it is not enough to say they are no longer using the designation – the FBI needs to completely withdraw their assessment. We are also concerned about the conflation of Black activism and white supremacist groups in the broad new category of “racially motivated violent extremism.”
On July 17th, in addition to delivering our petitions with more than 60,000 signatures, we will be delivering an advocacy letter, urging members of Congress to use their leadership to hold the FBI and other law enforcement agencies accountable for any improper surveillance of Black activists.
To support this Wednesday’s advocacy day, here’s how you can get involved and help #ProtectBlackDissent:
- Follow @mediajustice on Twitter and Instagram for live updates throughout the day.
- Watch the petition delivery live on our Facebook page.
- Stay tuned for additional information on how you can call Congress and urge them to meet our demands on the 17th!