Profiling and Repression of Suspected Maoists in Central Texas

Examining the documents of the state

By the Editorial Board

Tribune of the People received a series of unclassified documents reportedly from the ‘BlueLeaks’ data dump released in June 2020. The documents in question originate with the FBI, Austin Police Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the Austin Regional Intelligence Center. The following is derived from these reports. It is by no means a complete or exhaustive study.

Counter-revolutionary and anti-people state repression comes in many forms: direct assault, framing of individuals, profiling, and even attempted murder. All of these are familiar to those whom the state has declared “Antifa,” “Anarchist Extremists,” and Maoists in Central Texas, which has seen the rise of a diverse and vibrant living movement. The repression of Austin activists goes back beyond the confines of this editorial. The FBI famously used the snitch and provocateur Brandon Darby to incarcerate two young anarchists on trumped up charges relating to the Democratic National Convention in 2008, and continued to use informants and provocateurs during the Occupy Movement. Since 2014, their ire has been focused on targeting suspected Maoists and their acquaintances.

Combing through the documents of reaction paints a picture of how they profile the movement, stretching the imagination in order to criminalize it, and placing the idea in the head of every police officer that they must find a reason to charge anyone associated with the militant struggle, all in the name of “situational awareness.”

While repression and profiling cannot be pinned down to any specific date, a study of the documents shows that the state’s efforts were amplified in the wake of the 2016 election, which resulted in the ultra-reactionary presidency of Donald Trump. At a November 2016 anti-Trump rally, two Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers, Troopers Goodman and Hoffman, targeted and assaulted an activist with brute force and proceeded to break his neck in two places, an altercation which resulted in the near assassination of the comrade. Eyewitnesses confirm hearing the protester utter the words “you are going to kill me” before passing out as Goodman had him in a headlock and proceeded to twist his neck. Militant activists on the street narrowly saved the life of their comrade by attacking the police. Six people were arrested and labeled by DPS as the “Red Guard,” based only on the fact that they were wearing red bandanas (as were about half of the mainly peaceful protest).

The organization Red Guards Austin no longer exists according to posts from its official web organs in 2018, which have not shown any activity since that date. Little is known about the organization beyond what they published and speculation from the state and ruling class media. According to the Austin Regional Intelligence Center (ARIC, a collaborative project between various state and federal repression agencies) “the Red Guard,” sometimes abbreviated as RGA, was considered a danger to public safety. In a document for “Situational Awareness and Officer Safety” they write:

“The Red Guards Austin is an organization that promotes anti-government and anti-law enforcement themes. Per their website, the organization’s mission is to ‘raise the consciousness of our community through mass work (from the masses for the masses) towards revolution with the goal of Communism.’ Members have been present at numerous protests downtown over the past year. During a protest on November 13th, DPS arrested six Red Guards members at the Capitol for charges including Resisting Arrest and Aggravated Assault.”

According to court documents, the aforementioned charges were dropped or dismissed without prosecution. No assault convictions came from the November 13 incident, the state is simply creating a narrative about the former group and its supporters, a myth which it continues to reference in court cases over the past several years to plant prejudice in both judges and juries. Austin Police Department (APD) has a history of over-charging cases with political activists, and filing multiple charges in the hopes that at least one will stick. More often than not, baseless assault charges have not made it to trial, but they make sure to tack on all sorts of other charges to increase their odds. ARIC for its part, never mentions dropped or fraudulent charges; their role is to paint revolutionary activists and their support base as threats to the people generally, when in reality is the ideology of these comrades that the ruling class is threatened by the most.

A Texas DPS document discusses the same November 13 event, directly referencing the former organization’s ideology:

“In November 2016, six members of Red Guards Austin (RGA), an Austin-based AE [“Anarchist Extremist”, an umbrella term the state uses for any left-wing militant, including Communists and Socialists] group, were arrested for assaulting a supporter of then Presidentelect [sic] Donald Trump at an otherwise lawful rally held to protest the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election in Austin. The responding officers were also subsequently assaulted. According to a Red Guards position statement, the group ‘doesn’t seek to come to power through elections. We believe in armed struggle with mass participation’ in order ‘to build a party that will seize power and form a new state.’ According to DHS [Department of Homeland Security], RGA appears to be one of the largest and most active Red Guard chapters in the United States.”

Carl Wideneck, the Trump supporter who was allegedly assaulted, was part of the ‘alt-right.’ According to court documents, he propagated views on social media that slavery was good and that he would very much like to own a sex slave. He also admitted to hanging a noose at a job site to intimidate co-workers. The assault mentioned in the above report was later reduced to simple assault (a ticketable offense) and then thrown out altogether. The documents of ARIC however paint a very different picture, one of bias in the interest of profiling those who seek change outside of the electoral system, especially those who understand that armed struggle is a necessary prerequisite to the socialist liberation of the working class.

AIRC goes on to state that they have turned over their investigation to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF, a collaboration between APD and the FBI):

“Known subjects related to Red Guards Austin were suspects in an Aggravated Assault w/ Deadly weapons.  The report also mentioned the couple forming a new off-shoot of Austin Red Guards called the Partisans. Closed – Criminal. The Austin Police Department arrested the subjects involved in this case and executed a search warrant at their residence.  Based upon items located in the residence, the information has been passed to the JTTF and they will take the lead on the investigation.”

What does it take to be considered a “known member” of a subversive group? Nothing more than the opinion of a police officer, an irresponsible journalist who repeats police accounts uncritically, or a reckless commenter online, all of which are cited to support such flimsy claims. The claims themselves secure higher bonds, longer sentences, and increased profiling in the future. No convictions or court findings are used to justify one’s status as a “known member of an AE” group.

Texas DPS documents further highlight that the US imperialist state fears and detests proletarian internationalism. In a lengthy document pertaining to Kurdish organizations and Turkish Revolutionary organizations, they state:

“In December 2017, RGA held a demonstration in Austin in solidarity with Musa Aşoğlu, a Turkish revolutionary and key leader of the DHKP/C who is currently detained in Germany. Musa Aşoğlu was listed as one of the U.S. State Department’s ‘Rewards for Justice’ most wanted persons for his role as the head of DHKP/C financial operations, as well as for allegedly ordering the February 2013 suicide bombing attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.”

While showing solidarity with political prisoners abroad is protected free speech, the state considers it to be a gesture indicating criminal activity. Their hatred for revolutionaries at home and abroad knows no bounds.

“In the short to medium term, we assess that Texas-based AE groups with links to PKK-aligned Kurdish militants in Syria, Iraq and Turkey represent a viable threat to public safety, most likely by providing material support or facilitating recruitment to PKK-aligned Kurdish militant groups or DHKP/C,” the DPS document continues. “The addition of a returning AE USPER foreign fighter to an existing Texas-based AE group – especially one involving AE Known or Suspected Terrorists – is likely to escalate the operational capabilities of that group to potentially engage in criminal violence and terrorism.”

This should be concerning to free speech advocates. Without any evidence other than a person’s views, Texas DPS has come to the idea that those people are in reality involved with what is legally classified as “terrorist activity.” In essence, DPS considers anyone sympathetic to anti-imperialist causes and political prisoners a likely terrorist.

The efforts of the state to target and arrest individuals have not decreased the militancy in Central Texas, if anything it has exploded in both quality and quantity.

The state profiling and repression of activists extends beyond the former Communist organization RGA, targeting community activists in the struggles for working class housing and against gentrification, ARIC stated the following in a document from September 2019:

“Defend Our Hoodz-Defiende El Barrio-Austin (DOH) is an established Austin-based activist organization with an anti-law enforcement, anti-gentrification, and anti-capitalist ideology. DOH is modeled on the Los Angeles, California-based activist initiative known as Defend Boyle Heights. DOH is known to attract antifa-affinity and anarchist supporters who are willing to engage in acts of violence and unlawful conduct to further their political and ideological goals, including but not limited to criminal trespass, criminal mischief, assault, vandalism, graffiti, theft, harassment, intimidation, and arson.”

The unlawful conduct is, of course, unsubstantiated in the document, and no arrests turned up for any of the charges connected to any DOH protest or event except assault. The most common charges accrued from DOH protests are the archaic “disrupting a public meeting” misdemeanor charge which, according to Tribune’s investigation, has only been used against their organization. 24 people have received this charge for issuing demands to city council, a maneuver that can only be considered the suspension of the democratic rights of the organization.

It is clear in the reports from ARIC that surveillance is being conducted on the basis of skewed analysis: “Special Event Support – ARIC Analysts provided real time open source analysis support for the Protest Lou’s Bodega – DOH, DOH Anti-Gentrification Protest on January 26 and the Austin Women’s Rally 2019, additionally the ARIC Analysts are providing intelligence information to the respective law enforcement agencies throughout the events.”

Reports from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) help paint a picture of the governments response to the May Uprisings:

“The President of the United States announced Monday in a Rose Garden statement that he is mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to end ‘the violence and restore security and safety in America.’ The president said his measures would be effective ‘immediately’ and said he has ‘strongly recommended’ to every governor to deploy the National Guard in ‘sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets.’ The president said mayors and governors must establish an ‘overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.’ If the city or state refuses to take the actions, the president said he would deploy the U.S. military.

As of Monday, 26 states across the country, and Washington, D.C. have activated their National Guard to respond to disturbances. According to a National Guard official, over 17,000 National Guard members are responding to civil disturbances in support of local authorities. There have been around 4,000 people arrested across the United States since disturbances began on Tuesday, according to a tally by CNN as of Monday morning.”

4,000 has now jumped to more than 11,000, but the protest movement continues. The misinformation and deliberate reporting of falsehoods continue in Austin from ARIC, who along with the agencies involved, have launched a campaign against the community organization Mike Ramos Brigade (MRB), leading many local and national news sources to publish articles insinuating domestic terrorism or extremism from the group. Again, this is hearsay likely based on false reports from the shadowy ARIC:

“The Mike Ramos Brigade is known to have crossover in membership and support with DOH and may serve as a DOH affiliate or franchise organization. The Mike Ramos Brigade was active in hosting, organizing, and inciting some of the disruptive anti-police demonstration activities that took place in downtown Austin on the weekend of 29-31 May 2020.”

In reality the two organizations are distinct, with MRB being formed the night Mike Ramos was murdered by APD in the Riverside neighborhood of southeast Austin, where DOH has its most prominent support base and conducts most of its organizing; this is enough for the state to suggest a connection.

The ARIC analysis also contains total fabrication when they claim that “A recent community meeting hosted by the Mike Ramos Brigade emphasized anti-police sentiment and potential targeting of officers, to include the following statements: ‘We’re gonna kill police,’ ‘We’re gonna make police lives living hell,’ ‘We must kill some f***ing pigs’.”

Tribune of the People has reached out to both MRB, as well as some of those in attendance at the June 1 meeting that numbered over 100 people, and everyone who responded denies that the statements quoted by ARIC were actually said. Several undercover reporters were also present and none of them report hearing such statements. The most aggressive thing reported was the group’s claim that it was a “militant group” that believed in “rebellion,” of which MRB makes no denial. It becomes clear then that unaccountable law enforcement intelligence agencies and ‘think tanks’ like ARIC have little to no interest in fact-based reports, their reports are actually designed to criminalize and put the idea into every police officer’s head that these people are to be targeted. This targeting has played out at many MRB protests over the past month and a half, including APD dog-piling and repeatedly punching a detained man who was face down on the pavement.

The ARIC report on MRB continues:

“In addition to the above anti-police rhetoric, an attendee suggested targeting the Westlake neighborhood of Austin and stated: ‘Let’s go tear up all the white people s***.’ [Analyst Note: No specific location, date, or time was mentioned in reference to the Westlake neighborhood.] The community meeting, which occurred on 1 June 2020, was chaired by a known member/supporter of local antifa-affinity organization Defend Our Hoodz-Defiende El Barrio Austin (DOH). Additional known DOH members/supporters were also in attendance. Mike Ramos Brigade members/supporters are communicating and organizing via ProtonMail, Signal, and through face-to-face interaction. Both ProtonMail and Signal are secure, encrypted messaging platforms.”

Again we see the use of “known member” without any qualification to how this came to be “known” or who it is “known” by. Being from the same neighborhood and active in popular struggles is again enough to gain one the dreaded “antifa” affiliation, right at the time the leading imperialist Donald Trump spews verbal vomit threatening to label “antifa” a terrorist organization. This is just admitting that the old state reactionaries consider dissent and protest tantamount to terrorism. The report insinuates that the use of encrypted software by those already targeted and profiled by the state, including brutal assaults, surveillance, infiltration, and frame ups, use such means of encryption to conceal criminal activity, instead of to protect them from the exact type of repression the report represents.

When activists in Austin speak of the ‘New Cointelpro,’ and time is taken to go over the documentation from the state, it becomes totally believable. Tribune has only accessed a small section of data, from unclassified documents, leaving the contents of classified documents to the imagination.

Tribune of the People upholds that it is right to speak up against injustice and inequality, and that it is right to rebel against reactionaries, we stand in solidarity with those who have been targeted with state repression and oppose any attempts to divide the mass movement between “good” and “bad” protesters, which would only allow the racist police and the decaying state to determine who the friends and enemies of the people are. We encourage our readers to support our publication by donating here, and to support those targeted in the May Uprisings here.