Carl Messineo, PCJF Legal Director, stated, “The announcement accelerates a nationwide pattern of local and federal policing agencies abusing their counter-terrorism authorities to spy on and suppress First Amendment-protected activities. These agencies have manipulated the ‘war on terror’ to pull in new resources, staff and equipment at U.S. tax-payers’ expense. They have become paramilitary units policing a civilian population. Training domestic police agencies to treat the civilian population engaged in free speech as a military target is incompatible with a democratic society.”
A multi-year investigation by the PCJF uncovered how law enforcement agencies across the United States, including the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, Fusion Centers and local police forces, were involved in the local monitoring of and coordinated crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. The peaceful protests were routinely categorized and treated as potential terror incidents.
Messineo added, “For a police commissioner to suggest that the Black Lives Matter movement, or other peaceful protesters, could potentially have machine guns pointed at them and be treated as terrorist threats in itself sends a chilling message against the exercise of First Amendment rights.”