Austin: Records Show Police Surveilled Black Cultural Events After May Uprising

By Oliver Powell and Mike Talavera

From the end of May to at least July in Austin, the Austin Regional Intelligence Center (ARIC) worked closely with the Austin Police Department to spy on multiple Black cultural events, including the annual celebration of Juneteenth, in addition to its overall monitoring of protests in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd.

An internal ARIC bulletin from the third week of June lists several events that agents were keeping tabs on, including self-described non-violent rallies such as Juneteenth celebrations (one was virtual), a mass meditation, and candlelight vigils. A disclaimer at the top of the document claims that the ARIC was monitoring “only those activities where the potential use of incitement rhetoric could be used to instigate acts of violence.”

Austin police have openly admitted their efforts to infiltrate the local protest movement for Black Lives, but this new information shows that APD was conducting surveillance on events for merely associating with Black Lives regardless of whether they claimed to be peaceful or not. This racist methodology mirrors the disproportionate number of Black protesters persecuted and arrested following the May Uprising in Austin.

These documents also reiterate the unavoidable security risks of organizing through electronic means. For years, APD has utilized social media monitoring software to record the online activity of activists and track their locations. In 2015, APD submitted “Suspicious Activity Reports” to ARIC which included the names of several activists who dropped a protest banner over I-35 and their supposed connection to “known anarchists,” as only one example.

These documents prove that over the summer APD viewed any event that was for Black Lives to be a tinderbox for violence. It is no different than how they view Black people in their regular line of duty, who they target and kill like how officer Christopher Taylor and several other officers murdered Mike Ramos in April of this year.

The people have rightly taken up revolutionary violence against the incessant murders of Black people and other workers, and the extensive police surveillance this summer points to the state’s futile efforts to contain them.

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