WASHINGTON (IPS/GIN) — The year was 1967 and Aretha Franklin’s new single “Respect” was a big hit. But respect was sorely lacking in Black neighborhoods as summer riots erupted in Newark, Detroit and other cities.
It’s also the year that FBI head J. Edgar Hoover sent this communiqué: “The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or OTHERWISE NEUTRALIZE [emphasis added] the activities of Black nationalist hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder.”
“The activities of all such groups of intelligence interest to the Bureau must be followed on a continuous basis so we will be in a position to promptly take advantage of all opportunities for counterintelligence and inspire action in instances where circumstances warrant. The pernicious background of such groups, their duplicity, and devious maneuvers must be exposed to public scrutiny where such publicity will have a neutralizing effect.”
That was 1967 but according to FBI documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat though the agency acknowledges organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did “not condone the use of violence.”
The documents show FBI offices and agents around the country were conducting surveillance of the movement as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.
“This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.
“These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and corporate America,” she said.
The Occupy movement started in New York’s Zucotti Park in September 2011 and spread worldwide. It professed to be a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. Though from many different walks of life their one commonality was, “We are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%”.
“We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants. We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent,” the group declared.
Nothing violent or threatening there but the FBI documents revealed as early as August 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn’t start for another month. By September, prior to the start of protests, the FBI was notifying businesses about the possibility of Occupy Wall St. protests against corporations.
Documents showed the FBI’s “Campus Liaison Program” included having the FBI in Albany and the Syracuse Joint Terrorism Task Force disseminated information to “sixteen (16) different campus police officials,” and then “six (6) additional campus police officials.”
There was also coordination between the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and corporate America. Documents include a report by the Domestic Security Alliance Council, described by the federal government as “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector,” discussing the Occupy Wall St. protests at West Coast ports to “raise awareness concerning this type of criminal activity.”
“This is not surprising and sounds just like them,” Guy Anthony, a labor and Occupy activist told The Final Call. “They spread disinformation. The Occupy movement was gaining ground with the oppressed and disenfranchised so they had to be discredited and marginalized. This sounds like standard operating procedures for the FBI.”
The foundation filed Freedom of Information Act inquiries with multiple federal law enforcement agencies in the fall of 2011 as the Occupy crackdown began. The FBI initially attempted to keep its search to only one limited recordkeeping index.
Recognizing this was a common tactic used by the FBI to conduct an inadequate search, the foundation pressed forward demanding searches of FBI headquarters as well as FBI field offices nationwide.
“The FBI has been doing this since its beginning. It’s nothing new. Their job is to keep people under control. They exist to make sure nothing changes. If there is any shock it’s that White males who led the Occupy Movement thought that this couldn’t happen to them,” Dr. Randy Short of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference told The Final Call.
“Why did they think it wouldn’t happen to them just because they were white college types protesting? The Occupy people were misguided. The FBI did it to the peace movement. The real shock is those freedoms other people don’t get to enjoy were now violated in the Occupy movement.”