Civil rights groups sue homeland security over targeted surveillance

Demonstrators remind CWE patrons that "black lives matter" as they block intersection of Maryland and Euclid earlier this year. Photo by Lawrence Bryant/St. Louis American

(NNPA) - Last week, several civil rights groups filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release the contents of the agency’s redacted memo referred to in government documents as the “Race Paper.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights along with Color of Change first uncovered the existence of the “Race Paper” after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The advocates maintain that the existence of the “Race Paper,” and other documents confirm that the government has used targeted surveillance on many Black activists and organizers. The groups also said the document will confirm there was a violation by the government regarding the basic activity of Black people engaging in First Amendment activity.

“The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are at war with Black activists,” said Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change, in a March 19 press statement. “The documents we’ve forced the federal government to release expose how these agencies are demonizing and intimidating Black activists—people who are rightly demanding that our country be more just—through coordinated and systemic surveillance.”

The redacted “Race Paper” is “the newest of a slew of documents the groups have obtained that reveal how DHS and the FBI have both monitored and surveilled the Movement for Black Lives and pushed a state-sanctioned narrative that criminalizes Black protestors,” their release to the press asserted.

“Black and brown activists and the public in general should not be left to speculate as to why DHS prepared a document called the ‘Race Paper,’ circulated multiple versions of it, and called for in-person meetings to discuss its contents, but now fights to keep every word from seeing the light of day,” said Omar Farah, the senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “But given the long-standing and unconstitutional pattern of state surveillance of Black-led political movements, it bears repeating that FOIA is about transparency, not protecting government agencies from embarrassment.”

The Color of Change and the Center for Constitutional Rights first filed the FOIA request to the agencies in October 2016 to uncover how DHS and the FBI were monitoring the Movement for Black Lives as well as Black protestors and organizers exercising their First Amendment constitutional rights at protests across the country.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a congressional correspondent for the NNPA Newswire. Lauren also works independently as a political analyst and communications strategist. You can reach Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

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