Fault Lines, an investigative docuseries, recently released an episode comparing COINTELPRO to the FBI’s ongoing surveillance of Black Lives Matter organizers and others they call “Black Identity Extremists,” Al Jazeera reported.
The documentary exposed the FBI’s long history of surveilling and suppressing pro-Black movements based on dubious claims of threat. Reporter Femi Oke followed the story of Rodney Barnette, a Vietnam veteran who joined the Black Panther Party upon return from his tour of duty. The group was deemed a violent threat although they primarily organized to “[demand] an end to police brutality and equal rights to housing and employment,” according to Al Jazeera.
Barnette’s daughter, Sadie, has integrated her father’s FBI files into an art project that explores the impact and history of government surveillance on Black communities. “Despite the fact that my dad had served in Vietnam and he is taking care of his family and is just a regular citizen, this information is being collected because he’s considered an enemy by his own government,” Sadie told Al Jazeera.
While Barnette was victimized by COINTELPRO, which has been tied to the assassination of Malcolm X, similar tactics have been used by various organizations to target minority groups since the 1970s. In 2015, “intelligence analysts” catfished Black Lives Matter activists to spy on and arrest the activists who shut down the Mall of America to protest police brutality in Minnesota. “We have nothing to hide, we operate all of our trainings publicly and with the full knowledge that the eyes and ears of the state are everywhere,” Lena K. Gardner, one of the activists who participated, told NewsOne.
The NYPD recently refused freedom of information requests from members of Black Lives Matter who they surveilled. “The greater goal … is to cover up the extent of their political use of their police powers to oppose Black Lives Matter. Because when they undertake surveillance of Black Lives Matter, this is not law enforcement activity. Black Lives Matter is not breaking laws,” Dave Thompson, their legal counsel, said.
“Confidential: Surveilling Black Lives Matter” premiered on Wednesday. The first episode can be viewed in its entirety below.