The documents, which were shared with the publication after two civil rights group obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, revealed that federal surveillance of black activists went beyond tracking targets’ online fingerprints and instead extended to sending federal employees on stakeouts outside citizens’ residences.
Speaking with Sputnik Radio’s By Any Means Necessary, Dr. Dave Ragland, a senior Bayard Rustin Fellow at the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a US based organization promoting peace and justice, stressed that the behavior exhibited by the FBI and DHS shows that “they’re at war with black people.”
“I definitely think they’re at war with black people… as that article shows, they didn’t go after white supremacist groups with the same rigor,” Ragland told show hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon. “I think the fact is they see black folks as people to fear and they reinforce that and reinforce all kinds of racist tropes… and that paper that came out about the FBI targeting black people… seeing black identity groups as potential threats, I think it’s just continuing this kind of very myopic view of our groups and just racist views. It feels incomprehensible, but it just fits with history… we’ve seen this before.”
“Part of [the problem] is not being able to see black folks outside of being property,” he noted. “You have black folks organizing, trying to be autonomous folks… and that seems to have been one of the greatest threats.
The US “state security apparatus” even during the time of Marcus Garvey, a political leader who promoted black nationalism and unity among the African diaspora in Jamaica and the US in the first decades of the 20th century, used tactics of “interefereing and planting informants” to end that movement and others, Ragland said..
“We see this conquer and divide and infiltrate strategy just continue partly, even to this day.”
As a result, “many activists are paranoid,” he noted. “Part of this is the reason why our organizing really has to speak to something else and actually embody some of the ways that they can overcome the way the government tries to interfere and has continued to interfere in every single one of our movements.”
Though the FBI has denied they’re monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment, its continued history of surveilling and repressing black movements dating back to the 1960s shows that a “racist ideology” underpins its work, Ragland told Blackmon.
“It feels like… racist ideology forming or them not being able to see beyond their own bias,” he stated. “As we know the FBI.. the only reason to actually label our movements as terrorists or potentially a threat is because there is no sense of understanding.”
To fight the paranoia that comes from constant interference and infiltration, Ragland said, activists must “develop strong relationships” and not continually share plans on social media.
“That’s kind of all we can actually do… know who we’re organizing with and put the relationship to some extent over the movement, which might be hard to hear for folks, but the relationship is why we’re doing the movement,” he told Blackmon. “It’s not just been the FBI, it’s been at state and local levels where local police, national guard… those groups were having folks infiltrate people.”
“Most people in the movement are already security experts, but I think that part of it is that if you’re doing something that you don’t want anyone knowing about… don’t put it on Facebook and Twitter, keep it to yourself,” he added.
Organizations must “build relationships, because it’s all we have.”