The Chicago Police Department’s top lawyer signed off on plans to have undercover officers spy on activist groups, including Black Lives Matter and the Black Youth Project 100, following the criticism Mayor Rahm Emanuel faced for his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
The modern-day surveillance was an extension of a previous plan; according to the Sun-Times, the police department has been monitoring the actions of Black liberation groups since Michael Brown — an unarmed Black teenager — was fatally shot by White police officer Darren Wilson in 2014.
The new plan, approved by Ralph Price in October, was put into place to “monitor” meetings of four groups, including churches and philanthropic organizations, the Sun-Times revealed:
A month later — after the court-ordered release of police dashcam video showing a white Chicago cop, Officer Jason Van Dyke, shooting and killing a black teenager, Laquan McDonald — a top Emanuel aide went to the command center of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications to keep tabs on protests organized by the Black Youth Project 100, one of the groups spied on by the police.
Joe Deal, deputy chief of staff for the mayor, relayed information gathered by public safety officials to mayoral chief of staff Eileen Mitchell and the City Hall press team. That’s according to emails that were buried in a trove of records released by the city in late December amid outrage over the video, which showed the teenager, who had a knife, being shot 16 times as he appeared to walk away from Van Dyke.
The surveillance plan that followed the McDonald mishandling was the seventh investigation opened by the Chicago Police Department in seven years to keep tabs on groups exercising free speech. Other groups have included the Occupy movement, NATO Summit demonstrators, and anti-Olympic protesters. The department, following the Ferguson uprisings, also kept a log of events led by Black groups and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Each group, the Sun-Times points out, has been vocal in their dissent against City Hall and their allies.
But this surveillance, reminiscent of the monitoring of groups like the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 1970s, isn’t unprecedented or new.
Organizers for the Black Youth Project 100 — a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement that had been demonstrating against police shootings — say they aren’t surprised the police spied on them.
“There’s just a history of knowing we are organizing in a very hostile environment,” says Johnae Strong, a Chicago leader of the group. “The Chicago Police Department does exactly what it wants to do and finds ways to make it bureaucratically valid.”
Anthony Guglielmi, a police spokesperson, maintains the investigation was “documented to ensure transparency with the public.” He also called the surveillance “routine” and legal.
“These protective actions — which happen in limited circumstances — are conducted to protect public safety and people’s First Amendment rights,” Guglielmi says.
SOURCE: Chicago Sun-Times | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty