By Stephen McNeil
A coalition of organizations has launched an effort to help local communities, grassroots organizations and others resist unjust orders by the Trump administration.
This effort comes on the heels of the San Francisco Police Department’s announcement on February 1 that it is suspending participation in the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force – effective immediately. San Francisco Police Chief William Scott stated that, in light of the threats coming from the President, “when that confidence is shaken we have to slow down for a minute and make sure that the public sees us as an organization that they can trust.”
In 2012, 79 San Francisco community organizations concluded a three-year campaign for a Safe San Francisco Civil Rights Ordinance. The campaign aimed to ensure local police did not violate constitutional protections when working on anti-terror projects with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). The task forces are based in 104 cities nationwide, including at least one in each of the FBI’s 56 field offices. Seventy-one JTTFs have been created since 9/11.
Through consultations between the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, Police Commission, Board of Supervisors and community groups, a Memorandum of Understanding on how the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) would participate in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force was fashioned. They were to follow local laws that require written authorization from a supervisor for any investigation involving activities that may be protected by the First Amendment, and San Francisco’s Sanctuary City ordinance, which limits city employees’ cooperation with federal immigration agents.
The brilliance of the Safe San Francisco Civil Rights Ordinance was its simplicity. It is a two-page law, and its key provision asserted that the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) was allowed to participate in the JTTF, but only in a way that is completely consistent with the laws of the State of California, the laws and policies of San Francisco, and SFPD’s policies. If a JTTF mission breaks one of those laws, then SFPD officers are not allowed to complete that task. One JTTF Is currently investigating several individuals who are protesting against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline at near the Native American Standing Rock reservation, media reported, citing an activist’s attorney. According to The Guardian, Lauren Regan, a civil rights attorney who has actively provided legal support for protesters, said that three individuals, including a Native American, have been approached by JTTF officers. In each case, the officer came without a subpoena, but instead requested a voluntary interview, Regan said.
All three individuals were contacted in the weeks following Donald Trump’s inauguration, the newspaper added.
While the motive for the investigations is not known, the attorney regarded the approaches as "outrageous," "unwarranted," and "unconstitutional," noting that the mere inclusion of nonviolent demonstrators in a domestic terrorism investigation was "unfathomable," The Guardian reported.
In 2014, a JTTF unit in Minnesota monitored a Black Lives Matter demonstration at the Mall of America.
Faith Leaders and Organizers Launch StopTrumpIntelPro Initiative
Several organizations announcedat the end of February an effort to help local communities, grassroots organizations and others resist unjust orders by the Trump administration. The coalition includes Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, the Council on American-Islamic Relations/Bay Area (CAIR), LIVE FREE, PICO National Network, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, the Black Movement Law Project, SoundVision and others. TrumpIntelPro, short for the Trump Intelligence Program, is similar to COINTELPRO, the FBI’s 1960s covert operation to disrupt and destroy the Black liberation movement, anti-Vietnam War movement, and American Indian Movement. The organizations believe many of our cities are at risk from harmful strategies and tactics being scaled up across the country, as occurred with COINTELPRO. These strategies include clamping down on resistance by utilizing local police departments in a TrumpIntelPro program. In unveiling StopTrumpIntelPro, the groups offer a resource for those who want to guard against intrusive intimidation and surveillance tactics using a bottom-up, ethical framework.
“Disheartened by a range of policies promising retaliation for cities that offer sanctuary, construction of a wall at the southern border, banning migration to the United States for people from seven Muslim-majority countries, and surveillance and harassment of protestors and dissenters, a lot of people are wondering how to keep their communities safe,” said Pastor Michael McBride, director of PICONational Network’s Urban Strategies and the LIVE FREE campaign. “StopTrumpIntelPro is a framework that can help prevent immoral policies from spreading in our cities.”
Additional information about the effort can be found at TrumpIntelPro.com. The broader campaign will:
- highlight model ordinances to protect civil rights,
- encourage local police departments to adhere to laws in their local jurisdictions rather than orders from the FBI,
- direct calls to state and federal elected officials and
- provide concrete actions local communities can take to protect themselves from a rogue administration.
Ironically, this effort came just as The Intercept unveils a damning nine-part investigative series, “The FBI’s Secret Rules,” detailing the powers of the FBI to suppress dissent and retaliate against those who resist President Trump’s harmful policies.
"This is a critical time and local communities must demand their local police departments embrace the values of local citizens, not Trump's FBI,” said John Crew, advisor to the StopTrumpIntelPro campaign and a police practices expert. “That's the only way to ensure local police will not profile, surveil or harass immigrants, religious minorities or constitutionally protected political dissenters and demonstrators."
“The overwhelming history of the black church and black religious institutions in the United States offers a model for prophetic resistance to bias and discrimination,” said Iva Carruthers, general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. “We will continue to stand against the implementation of harmful policies and call for moral and prophetic voices to organize and resist TrumpIntelPro.”
“Given the heightened islamophobia and the recent executive orders by the Trump administration, all local jurisdictions should reinforce the human and constitutional rights of all people,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations/Bay Area. “We do not want TrumpIntelpro policies to spread across the country and traumatize our immigrant and Muslim communities. We are excited to partner with our friends and provide a blueprint to resist harmful policies.”
Campaign endorsers at this time are: American Civil Liberties Union of California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations of the San Francisco/Bay Area (CAIR), the Chicago Youth Project, Hands Up United, Kinetics Live, LIVE FREE, Black Movement Law Project, Media Alliance, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Oakland Privacy, PICO California, PICO National Network, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, and SoundVision.