The Government Is Watching #BlackLivesMatter, And It’s Not Okay

According to documents recently obtained by The Intercept in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the government is surveilling the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Records from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Operations Coordination show that since August 2014, DHS officials have been trolling public social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, and Vine, to map and collect information on #BlackLivesMatter protests –and supposedly related events. Targeted activities include silent vigils held across the country following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, an anti-police brutality protest in Philadelphia, and an April 2015 #BlackLivesMatter protest in Washington D.C.  The documents even show a plan to gather information on a funk music parade in a historically Black neighborhood in the nation’s capital.

Perhaps most troubling are the Google maps and live updates tracking, minute-by-minute, the movements of participants in an April 2015 #BlackLivesMatter protest in Washington, D.C.  A DHS email released to the Intercept confirms that on the day before the event, several DHS officials were aware of a Federal Bureau of Investigation joint intelligence bulletin characterizing the protest as a “First Amendment-protected event,” and noting that there was “no information suggesting that violent behavior is planned for Washington, DC.”

What will be done with this trove of information? We know that DHS shares what it gathers with local and federal law enforcement for targeting police stops and investigations. Information about specific individuals can also be funneled into the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting system, which provides reports to the FBI through regional fusion centers.

The problem with this is obvious. Modern protest movements speak, associate, and organize through social media. Their tweets, blogs, protests, marches, and die-ins are the trumpets by which they call for reform and social justice. Government monitoring of activists’ protests – simply because these activists dissent and without any evidence of wrongdoing – threatens to discourage them from speaking, associating, and expressing as is their right under the First Amendment. Surveillance of #BlackLivesMatter protests also opens the door to racial profiling because the movement is Black-led.

Throughout our country’s history, the federal government has used the fear of threats – real or perceived – to conduct surveillance on domestic groups and people who look or act different. Civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960s and 1970s, American Muslim civil rights leaders and academics post-9/11, and the FBI’s recent, expansive racial, religious, and ethnic mapping program are a handful of examples.

Today, at a time when the public is outraged and sickened that Black men and women are killed by police in too many incidents raising concerns about racial profiling, excessive force, and gross disregard for Black lives, the tracking of #BlackLivesMatter threatens to harm that movement and all others seeking equal treatment for minority Americans.

Progress toward racial justice in America has been made precisely because brave people, particularly people of color, have raised their voices to hold America accountable to its promises of equality and liberty. Courageous men and women of color have stood up in order to call for the abolition of the chattel slavery, to urge the adoption of a constitutional amendment promising equal protection of the law, to demand an end to the legalized racial segregation that ruled America for 90 years, and to insist on federal protection for Black people’s right to vote after decades of disenfranchisement through enforced terror.

The generations of civil rights activists who made these calls were branded as “dangerous,” “terrorist,” and “subversive.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his family, his colleagues in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress for Racial Equality, and countless other individuals and groups heralded today for their vision of racial equality in America were victims of FBI surveillance in the 1960’s.

Surveillance of today’s civil rights activists is equally wrong. We do not need to wait 50 years to understand that.

View comments (29)
Read the Terms of Use


Can you connect to resources to protect yourself from this surveillance? Need help for organizers.


Eff, electronic frontier foundation, has a 'surveillance self-defense' list (or something to that effect anyway), online... I believe.


Surveillance self defense:

Gullible White ...

this is not left vs right, legal vs illegal, GOP vs Dems, Socialism vs liberty. This is war on White people.

Why do hostile elite defend Israel as a Jewish ethnostate with Jewish only immigration, but ravage White majority Europe/North America into a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Gulag with non-White colonization?

The world is 91% non-White, only 9% White. But non-White colonizers are aggressively annihilating gullible Whites, just as China annihilates Tibet.

How long will gullible Whites cuckold for murderous anti-White elite, who suppress our fertility, plunder White jobs/wages/guns, infiltrate/subvert our banks/FBI/CIA, indoctrinate White kids in academia/mass media & butcher White soldiers in bankrupting wars?

"Native" Americans invaded from East Asia. Yellow & Brown races committed 10-times more genocide, slavery, imperialism than Whites. Since Moses, Whites have been victims of Jewish/Crypto-Jewish, Muslim, N.African imperialism, slavery, genocide.

Gullible Whites should reject subversive ideologies- libertarianism, feminism, liberalism- & hostile slanders of racism. Peace to all humanity, but White people must organize to advance their interests, their fertility, their homelands. Copy & spread this message. Reading list: , , ,


As long as black people are murdering white people in the numbers they are black lives don't matter.


Really? Please tell me some of these black on white killings, (names/dates), then I can tell you of 100x as many white on black killings. I'm sorry to be disrespectful, but that is an uninformed opinion; Certainly not a fact. And when it's you under surveillance, tell me how it's ok with you.


But as long at white people are murdering black people at the rate they are and Police are killing black people at the rate they are..that is ok then? or are you just a racist troll?


Not that I agree with this person's comment that black lives don't matter, which is completely racist. Crime is crime regardless of the race, gender, or ethnicity of the offender. However, they are right that there is a larger percentage of black on white crime (murder specifically) as opposed to white on black. Black on White homicide offenders typically average around 14% of offenders where White on Black is typically around 7-8%, according to FBI Uniform Crime Reports. (Just for a reference). However, majority of these homicides are committed by the victims same race. Not that this should give anyone a reason to hate or belittle a group of people. Nor should these negative actions associate the offenders with their respective race as a whole. These are individual, and I'm sure some group, actions. We need to move beyond seeing color as a motive and start punishing crime as crime. We will only, truly, set aside our negative biases towards race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. in the justice system when we start seeing every victim as a whole and criminals as individuals. Justice is blind and should therefore be delivered as such.


All lives matter.


Nobody is saying they don't. But by saying that you're taking a real problem and a movement to stop it and turning it around to make it about yourself. Don't do that.


Stay Informed