‘Racism plays a role’: New report says feds targeted Black Lives Matter protesters

Titled “Struggle For Power: The Ongoing Persecution of Black Movement By The U.S. Government,” the report was first shared with the Associated Press. In the report, the two organizations noted that as protests across the country increased, so did police presence, the deployment of federal agents, and prosecution of protesters. According to the report, policing has been historically used as a tool to deter Black people from engaging in protest and has weakened efforts that draw attention to issues impacting Black Americans.

The report compared the difference in how the government handled COVID-19 protests by anti-maskers and others opposing safety measures to how racial injustice protests were dealt with in the same period.

In describing BLM protests in its directives and statements, the DOJ “painted an image of protesters as ‘violent radicals,’ ” and “the government justified the expanded use of its authority and deployment of federal enforcement due to what it claimed was local and state leaders’ ‘abdication of their law enforcement responsibilities in deference to this violent assault’,” the report said.

According to the Associated Press, M4BL is demanding reparations from the government including an acknowledgment and an apology for the long history of targeting movements “in support of Black life and Black liberation.” Additionally, it is pushing for the passage of the BREATHE Act, proposed federal legislation that would transform the nation’s criminal justice system by ending the use of Joint Terrorism Task Forces in local communities. The report found that 20 cases involving protesters explicitly referenced task force involvement with a “greatly exaggerated” threat of violence from protesters.

 “We want to really show how the U.S. government has continued to persecute the Black movement by surveillance, by criminalizing protests, and by using the criminal legal system to prevent people from protesting and punishing them for being engaged in protests by attempting to curtail their First Amendment rights,” said Amara Enyia, The Movement for Black Lives policy research coordinator.

“It is undeniable that racism plays a role,” Enyia said. “It is structurally built into the fabric of this country and its institutions, which is why it’s been so difficult to eradicate. It’s based on institutions that were designed around racism and around the devaluing of Black people and the devaluing of Black lives.”

Among other key findings, the report also found that “much of the drive to use federal charges against protesters stemmed from top-down directives” from Trump and former Attorney General William Barr.

“We saw U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr overnight go from expressing some level of sympathy for racial justice protesters to labeling them as radical and violent agitators with absolutely no basis for that sort of characterization,” Ramzi Kassem, founding director of CLEAR and a law professor at the City University of New York said, according to the AP.“All of this was very transparently aimed at disrupting a Black-led movement for social justice that was happening both spontaneously and in an organized fashion nationwide.”

The report also noted that in nearly 93% of the criminal cases, there were similar state-level charges that could have been brought against defendants. Of the cases in which state crimes could have been filed instead, 88% of the federal charges had more severe potential punishments than those at the state level for the same conduct.

“The empirical data and findings in this report largely corroborate what Black organizers have long known intellectually, intuitively, and from lived experience about the federal government’s disparate policing and prosecution of racial justice protests and related activity,” the report stated.

The report comes months after the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender’s book Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost. In the book, Bender details conversations Trump allegedly had with top officials in which he suggested targeting protesters using extreme military force several times, Daily Kos reported. Trump not only told law enforcement officials to get “physical” with Black Lives Matter protesters but even showed them videos that featured aggressive officers as an example of what he wanted to see more of. “That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people,” Trump told top officials, according to the book. “Crack their skulls!”

Despite the number of reports confirming just how peaceful Black Lives Matter protests have been, throughout his term in office Trump labeled racial justice protesters as violent. He not only gained widespread criticism for his decision to send federal agents to stop protests in cities such as Portland, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., but encouraged others to approach protesters with violence, Daily Kos reported. According to the report, 29% of federal charges for protest-related activity occurred in Portland, Oregon.

“Regardless of how we are often painted, activists are people who have the audacity to believe that we can live in a better world, where people are safe, where people are not afraid of being murdered by the police,” said Makia Green, a liberation organizer and co-conductor of the Washington D.C.-based group Harriet’s Wildest Dream. “There are attempts to stifle our movement but it is truly a reflection to our supporters, to our allies, and to the folks who showed up in the streets last year, of how beautiful and powerful this movement is.”

Green, who fully supports the report’s findings, noted the importance of  President Joe Biden’s need to fulfill his campaign pledge of supporting Black Americans and addressing the root causes of white supremacy.

Source: http://feeds.dailykosmedia.com/~r/dailykosofficial/~3/Ahbiy_PlCkw/–Racism-plays-a-role-New-report-says-feds-targeted-Black-Lives-Matter-protesters