Did FBI Surveillance in Portland Chill First Amendment Rights?


Wednesday, December 22, 2021 - 7:45am

Last year, protesters marched once again through the streets of Portland, sending a message that putting a Democrat in the White House would not resolve problems with a system of policing and corporate wealth that they saw as fundamentally unfair. "No cops, no prisons, total abolition," they chanted. Some activists, dressed in solid black clothing and masks that may signal a readiness to cause trouble without being readily identifiable, smashed windows at the local Democratic Party headquarters. The event included anarchists, antifascists, communists and racial justice activists. There were others mingling in the crowd that day: plainclothes FBI agents, the New York Times reports.

The FBI set up extensive surveillance operations inside Portland's protest movement, with agents standing shoulder to shoulder with activists, tailing vandalism suspects to guide the local police toward arrests and furtively videotaping inside one of the most active domestic protest movements. The breadth of FBI involvement in Portland and other cities where federal teams were deployed at street protests became a point of concern for some in the Justice Department who worried that it could undermine the First Amendment right to wage protest against the government. Some insiders believed that the teams could be compared to FBI surveillance transgressions of decades past, such as the COINTELPRO projects that sought to spy on and disrupt activist groups in the 1950s and 1960s. There has been no evidence so far that the bureau used similar surveillance teams on right-wing demonstrators during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

News tags:

Any opinions expressed or positions taken here on Crime and Justice News are those of their respective
authors and should not be construed to be the opinions of ASU or any of its sub-units or programs.