The federal government has deliberately targeted Black Lives Matter protesters through heavy-handed criminal prosecutions in an attempt to disrupt and discourage the global movement that swept the nation and beyond last summer after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd. , according to a new report.
Movement leaders and experts said the persecution of protesters over the past year continued a century-old practice by the federal government, rooted in structural racism, to suppress Black social movements via the use of surveillance tactics and other mechanisms.
The report was released by the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 50 civil rights and activism groups and professional associations representing Black communities and published in partnership with the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility clinic. (Clear) in City University of New. York (Cuny) School of Law.
“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 protest justice racial and related activities,” the report said.
The report, which was first shared with the Associated Press, argues that as the uprisings in the summer of 2020 increased, the presence of the police, the deployment of federal agents and the prosecution of protesters have increased.
Titled Struggle for Power: The Ongoing Persecution of the Black Movement by the US Government, the report details how the police have historically been used as a major tool to deter black people from engaging in their right to protest , and to weaken efforts to draw attention to the problems. affecting Black Americans.
It also draws a comparison with how the government used counter-intelligence program techniques to “disrupt the work of the Black Panther Party and other organizations fighting for black liberation.”
“We really want to show how the US government has continued to persecute the Black movement by surveillance, criminalizing protests, and using the criminal legal system to prevent people from protesting and punishing them for engaging in protests by trying to limit their first .amendment rights,” said Amara Enyia, policy research coordinator for the Movement for Black Lives Matter.
“It is undeniable that racism plays a role,” Enyia said. “It’s 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 devaluation of Black people and the devaluation of Black life.”
In the report, the Movement for Black Lives calls for amnesty for all demonstrators involved in the national protests.
The group, also known as M4BL, is demanding reparations from the government that include an acknowledgment and apology for the long history of targeting movements “in support of black lives and black liberation.”
He is also pushing for the approval of the Breathe Act, proposed federal legislation that will radically transform the country’s criminal justice system, and end the use of joint terrorism forces in local communities.
The report also points to the stark difference in how the government handled Covid-19 protests against local government shutdowns and mask mandates amid the pandemic during the same period.
Analyzes 326 criminal cases initiated by US federal prosecutors for alleged conduct related to the protests following the murder of Floyd and the police killings of other Black Americans, from May 31, 2020 to May 25, 2020. of October 2020.
A key finding of the report is that the push to use federal charges against protesters came from top-down directives from Donald Trump and former attorney general William Barr.
M4BL and Clear found that in 92.6% of cases, there were equivalent charges at the state level that could have been brought against the defendants, mostly with potentially less severe sentences.
“We saw Barr last night from expressing a certain level of sympathy for racial justice protesters to labeling them as radical and violent agitators with absolutely no basis for this type of characterization,” said Ramzi Kassem, director founder of Clear and professor of law at CUNY. adding that it was “very transparently intended to disrupt a Black-led movement for social justice that was occurring both spontaneously and in an organized fashion across the country.”
Race data is only available for 27%, or 89, of the defendants. Of that number, 52% were identified as Black. Of the Black defendants, 91% were identified as male.
Portland, Oregon, led in the number of charges brought for protest activities, accounting for 29% of federal charges. Chicago, Las Vegas, Washington, DC and Minneapolis followed.