November 29, 2017 by
When it comes to Black social justice groups, the FBI’s motto is, “Monitor now, ask questions later.” A protester during a silent demonstration after a white Ferguson police officer shot and killed Michael Brown in St. Louis, Missouri, March 14, 2015. / REUTERS The FBI is once again targeting Black Lives Matter and also expressed fear of “black supremacist extremists” launching violent attacks at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, according to FBI and Department of Homeland Security documents. Records and emails from July 2016 were obtained and released in part Tuesday by Al Jazeera. According to one set of emails from July 8, 2016, the FBI feared large-scale attacks from BLM after lone gunman Micah Xavier Johnson killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas, that same month. “Due to sensitivities surrounding recent police shootings, the threat of copycat attacks against law enforcement exist[s],” according to the email. “There is a threat of black supremacist extremists attempting to violently co-opt the upcoming DNC/RNC.” The email in question does not elaborate on the “threat,” nor does it define “black supremacist extremists.” BLM issued a statement at the time of the shooting separating itself from Johnson and rejecting the notion that BLM condones violence. “Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it,” the organization said at the time. “Yesterday’s attack was the result of the actions of a lone gunman. To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us.” The FBI email also states more than once that Johnson acted alone: “There was only 1 shooter (Johnson). Johnson is dead.”  “Dallas officials report the deceased barricaded gunman acted alone.” “The [Dallas chief of police] also briefed that prior to his death, Johnson stated he had acted alone.” But that did not stop the FBI from figuring out ways to spy on BLM protests and seemingly make it legal. In another set of emails the FBI acknowledges that BLM protests are protected by the First Amendment. Therefore, the email includes a “caveat” to be placed on “any documents containing relevant information.” The loophole states, in part: “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.” Two organizations, Color Of Change (COC) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), sued to have the emails in question made public. Omar Farah, a lead attorney with the CCR, explained to Al Jazeera that the threat of surveillance is enough even if the FBI does not make a record of it. “Surveillance is what chills people from mobilising and organizing,” Farah told Al Jazeera. A third document, also dated July 8, advised caution during a “Day of Rage” event that was supposedly taking place on July 15. “Being anywhere near these protests greatly increases the chance that you could become a victim of violence. When the mob mentality takes over, normally decent people can commit heinous acts,” the advisory states. The note also includes a list of about three dozen locations where protests were allegedly taking place, calling them “places NOT to be.” BLM tweeted at the time that there was no such protest planned. According to Snopes, the “Day of Rage” mirrored a similar hoax that launched in August 2014 after the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson: “In the wake of the controversial police shooting incident, rumors were swirling that the hacktivist collective Anonymous — acting in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement — had called for ‘Day of Rage’ protests to be staged in cities across the United States on 21 August 2014.” “Two years later, in July 2016, the shooting deaths of two black men — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota — by white police officers prompted another round of protests,” Snopes continues. “Rumors again spread online that Anonymous had called for ‘Day of Rage’ protests to be staged in 36 (or 39) cities across the United States on 15 July 2016.” So what happened on the day in question? Nothing, more or less, other than a few scattered protests across the country. A DHS Field Analysis Report (FAR) from September 2016 did study white supremacist protests — but the language is strikingly different. The document is titled: “California: Recent Violent Clashes Suggest Heightened Threat Environment at Lawfully Organized White Supremacist Events.” The report followed two white supremacist rallies that took place in Chicago earlier that year. According to DHS, violence occurred thanks to counterprotesters who attended the event. In Sacramento, “violent anti-fascists, including anarchist extremist elements, attacked a group of white supremacists who gathered for a legally permitted rally.” “There are a number of potential indicators of planned criminal or violent activities at white supremacist events. Some of these behavioral indicators may be constitutionally protected activities and should be supported by additional facts to justify increased suspicion,” the report states. One year after the report, 32-year-old Heather Heyer lost her life at a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., when a white supremacist drove a vehicle into a crowd of counterprotesters. According to the FBI and DHS, therefore, BLM and Black social justice movements should be under surveillance, and if recorded activity does not indicate a threat, a “caveat” can be included with the records. But for white supremacist activity, “additional facts” must be present “to justify increased suspicion.” Brandi Collins, Color Of Change’s campaign director, said to Al Jazeera, “The subtext here is stunning.” “It tells us who the government is training to view as threats and the rightful targets of ongoing surveillance and which groups will be offered protection,” Collins added. The FBI has produced other reports similar to the ones obtained by Al Jazeera. A report (obtained by Foreign Policy) was released in August titled “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers.” The report cites the Michael Brown shooting and the subsequent decision not to indict the officer who killed him as evidence that “Black Identity Extremists” (BIEs) are likely to target law enforcement. “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence,” according to the document. At a recent House Judiciary Committee meeting, Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat, questioned U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III about the report. Sessions claimed to not have seen it or have any knowledge of it. “I’m not sure how that report got ordered,” he said. “I don’t believe I explicitly approved or directed it.” Kaitlyn D'Onofrio

7 hours ago by
The jurors who acquitted Philip Brailsford of second-degree murder last week were told to judge him based on "how a reasonable officer would act, versus a regular person with no police training," as The Arizona Republic put it. That distinction was crucial, because a "regular person" would never get away with shooting an unarmed man who was crawling on the floor, sobbing, and begging for his life. Like other recent cases in which jurors failed to hold police officers accountable for the unnecessary use of deadly force, Brailsford's acquittal shows that cops benefit from a double standard. Unlike ordinary citizens, they can kill with impunity as long as they say they were afraid, whether or not their fear was justified. Daniel Shaver got drunk and did something stupid. But he did not deserve or need to die for it. On January 18, 2016, Shaver, who was 26 and lived in Granbury, Texas, was staying at a La Quinta Inn in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb, while working on a job for his father-in-law's pest control company. After inviting two other hotel guests to his room for a drink, he showed them an air rifle he used for work, at one point sticking it out a window to demonstrate the scope's range. Alarmed by the rifle's silhouette, a couple who had been using the hotel's hot tub informed the staff. That's how Brailsford and five other Mesa officers ended up confronting Shaver in a fifth-floor hallway. The bodycam video of the encounter, which was not publicly released until after the verdict, shows that Shaver, who according to the autopsy had a blood alcohol concentration more than three times the legal threshold for driving under the influence, was confused by the strange and contradictory orders that Sgt. Charles Langley barked at him. Instead of simply handcuffing Shaver as he lay face down with his hands behind his head, under the guns of three officers, Langley inexplicably told the terrified and intoxicated man to crawl toward him. While crawling, eyes on the floor, Shaver paused and reached toward his waistband, apparently to pull up the athletic shorts that had slipped down as he moved. That is when Brailsford fired five rounds from his AR-15 rifle. "He could have easily and quickly drawn a weapon down on us and fired without aiming," Brailsford said later. Yet neither of the other two officers who had guns drawn on Shaver perceived the threat that Brailsford did. One of those officers testified that he would not fire based purely on the "draw stroke" Brailsford thought he saw. He would also consider the context, such as whether a suspect is belligerent and threatening or, like Shaver, compliant, apologetic, and tearful. Brailsford said he was trained to ignore context. "We're not trained necessarily to pay attention to what a suspect is saying," he testified. "We're supposed to watch their actions and what they do with their hands." The jury apparently accepted the counterintuitive argument that police, because of their special training, are apt to be less careful with guns than the average citizen would be. A similar dispensation seemed to be at work last June, when Minnesota jurors acquitted former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez of manslaughter after he panicked during a traffic stop and shot a driver who was reaching for his license. Even more astonishing was the failure of South Carolina jurors to reach a verdict in the trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, who shot an unarmed motorist in the back as he ran away. Last May, five months after that mistrial, Slager signed a federal plea agreement in which he admitted the shooting was not justified. All three of these officers said they were afraid, but that is not enough to justify the use of deadly force. When juries fail to ask whether police have good reason to fear the people they kill, regular people have good reason to fear police. by Jacob Sullum Read More: 'It looks awful': Ex-officer's acquittal reignites debate over police use of force