The protests that materialized nationwide following the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd were not only attended by people demonstrating against police brutality and racial inequality and also by undercover Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents.
Following the murder of Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, thousands of people took to the streets across the country to protest. Months of unrest resulted in thousands of peaceful demonstrations against police brutality. Some cities reported shootings, vandalism and looting. The National Guard was activated in at least 21 states, The New York Times reported.
It has recently been reported that police in 50 cities reached out to the DEA for help in surveilling the protests, some of which took place on college campuses. During former President Donald Trump’s presidency, authorities were permitted to surveil protesters under the supervision of Attorney General William Barr to foil “anarchists and far-left extremists using Antifa-like tactics,” BuzzFeed News reported.
At least 51 times during the summer of 2020, drug enforcement agents were asked to surveil protesters. The DEA requests came from all levels of government. This resulted in “a nationwide deployment of agency assets on the ground and in the air; covert agents and other intelligence tools and personnel; and in surveillance, both physical and electronic,” Gizmodo reported.
The undercover operations were revealed only after the U.S. government was sued for unlawfully denying access to materials that show the depth of the Trump administration’s efforts to surveil protests.
The records were finally recently released to Citizens for Ethics (CREW), a government watchdog group that sued the departments of Justice and Homeland Security under the federal freedom of information statute, Gizmodo reported.
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According to the records, the DEA approved “covert surveillance” at protests in Los Angeles, Denver, St. Louis, Newark, Philadelphia, Chicago, Albuquerque, Tampa, and smaller cities such as Troy and Plattsburgh in upstate New York.
At the beginning of the protests, Trump delivered an ultimatum to protesters on May 29, 2020, and suggested he was considering military force to suppress riots. Trump called the protesters “thugs” on Twitter and wrote, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
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