In the summer of 2014, 18-year-old Mike Brown was executed by a white law enforcement officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Our country soon saw an unprecedented level of protest and uprising in Black communities, and through this struggle was born the Movement for Black Lives. The United States Government (USG) has a long and well-documented history of oppressing Black communities, from chattel slavery to Jim Crow laws to the ongoing system of mass incarceration. Knowing this history, you’d think our government’s response to the tragedy in Ferguson would have been to invest in Black communities, not continue to infiltrate and undermine a much-needed Black Power Movement. But instead, our political leaders ignored our demands after Mike Brown’s murder and the law enforcement community has reinvented all types of programs to undermine our efforts in the digital age – including through the FBI’s targeting of so-called “Black Identity Extremists” (BIE).
Last week, we were part of a delegation of Black organizers and allies that went to Congress to demand that Congress require the FBI retract their 2017 BIE report (which has been sent to over 18,000 law enforcement agencies), release all of the data used to create this made-up designation and be transparent about how it and other similar designations have been used to track Black activists. We went from office to office making our case to Congressional staffers, with a particular focus on Black members of Congress.
In order to urge these members to subpoena the FBI and hold a hearing as soon as possible, we shared our traumatic stories of white power nationalists terrorizing our communities, the burning down of historic civil rights organization buildings like the Highlander Center, and our own recent experiences of being surveilled and targeted by the government’s intelligence agencies. We shared stories of how Black Muslims have been further targeted through programs like “Countering Violent Extremism” and how these programs are another attempt by the government to destabilize Black Muslim communities, particularly highlighting how this program has impacted Somali Muslims in the U.S. We shared how our communities and movements are falling apart due to the FBI’s infiltration, just as other Black power movements have experienced in the past.
Yet, collectively we know that our communities and movements are stronger than the U.S. governments efforts to maintain the status quo. This is a special moment in our country. We have an opportunity to right some of these past wrongs; we have a chance to invest in reparations and not surveillance—and we have momentum and history at our backs. This past week, we took a big step towards expanding the movement to #ProtectBlackDissent and we hope more members of Congress and their staff will soon join our efforts.
Check out some highlights from the #ProtectBlackDissent advocacy day below and take action to put pressure on Congress here: