Why Some Black Activists Believe They’re Being Watched by the Government


By Darnell L. Moore
June 3, 2015

The home of activist Patrisse Cullors was raided twice last year by law enforcement in Los Angeles. During one raid, officers told Cullors they were looking for a suspect who had allegedly fled in the direction of her house. But neither time did Cullors believe the officers had a strong rationale for invading her home.

Instead, Cullors told Mic, she believed the raids were devised by police in response to the public campaigning of Dignity and Power Now, a grassroots organization Cullors founded that advocates on behalf of incarcerated people in Los Angeles. She also believes similar surveillance methods are used to monitor many black activists today.

"Surveillance is a huge part of the state's role. Surveillance has been used for a very long time, but some of the means, like social media account monitoring, are new," Cullors, who is also a cofounder of Black Lives Matter, told Mic. "Local enforcement surveils by tracking the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, which allows law enforcement to show up at actions before they begin." Mic has reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department for comment.

Recent statements by FBI deputy director Mark F. Giuliano may give credence assumptions like Cullors that black activists are being watched. During a press conference on May 21 prior to the acquittal of Michael Brelo, a white Cleveland police officer involved in the shooting death of two unarmed black people, Giuliano addressed the potential for continued protests in response to the verdict.

"It's outsiders who tend to stir the pot," Giuliano said. "If we have that intel we pass it directly on to the [Cleveland Police Department]. We have worked with Ferguson, we've worked with Baltimore and we will work with the Cleveland PD on that very thing. That's what we bring to the game." Mic has reached out to the FBI's Office of Public Affairs for comment.

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