CREW has received Drug Enforcement Administration records that indicate DEA conducted “covert surveillance” of people protesting the killing of George Floyd last summer in Philadelphia, Chicago and Albuquerque, including the use of undercover DEA agents to “infiltrate” protests, social media monitoring and aerial surveillance.
CREW is suing the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for failing to turn over documents on federal officers’ role in policing anti-racism protests in response to the killing of George Floyd by police.
Under the guise of protecting federal monuments, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf’s July deployment of federal agents to Portland, Oregon clearly indicated that there was more to Wolf’s new DHS task force than indicated on paper. For example, on July 18, 2020, federal agents outside of Portland’s federal courthouse were filmed repeatedly striking Navy veteran Christopher David—who approached the police line unarmed and with no apparent malice—with batons and mace. In other incidents, roving federal officers outfitted in fatigues and carrying rifles, but wearing no visible agency identification, were filmed pulling protesters into unmarked minivans. On August 19, 2020, Portland media reported that the U.S. Marshals Service had flown a small aircraft over downtown Portland in order to photograph protesters below.
On July 8, 2020, Attorney General Bill Barr, who has also been complicit in facilitating Trump’s targeting of protesters for racial justice, announced the launch of Operation LeGend, a federal policing initiative that he claimed would target a sudden increase in violent crime in U.S. cities. The operation has facilitated the creep of federal troops into a number of cities, which appears to be constitutionally questionable.
CREW previously filed FOIAs with DOJ and DHS on actual or planned deployment of federal law enforcement in response to protests for racial justice across the country, in addition to policies that governed federal authorities’ treatment of these protesters. To date, these agencies and components have provided no determination as to CREW’s FOIA requests.
The public deserves to know what power an agency shrouded in secrecy has and if peoples’ constitutional rights are being violated. Wolf, who has not been confirmed by the Senate and whose appointment also appears to be illegal, and Barr need to be held accountable for their agents’ violence against protesters and spreading fear among the public.
Sep 11, 2020