A screenshot provided by youth organizers to the ACLU of Massachusetts shows what appears to be a Massachusetts State Police investigations unit attempting to follow an anti-mass incarceration activist on Instagram from a locked account.
Ivan, @eyevan617 on Instagram, is an organizer with Youth Against Mass Incarceration (YAMI), a Boston based justice group fighting for alternatives to incarceration and to bring down the prison industrial complex.
Earlier this week, Ivan and other organizers with the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition held a protest outside Secretary of Transportation Richard A. Davey’s office at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The Youth Pass Protest demanded a $10 per month MBTA pass for youth aged 12-21, with no time or day restrictions. When the secretary refused to meet with protesters in person, a number of the youth organizers decided to stay outside his office for a few hours after the building had closed to the public. State Troopers then arrested 21 youth on trespassing charges, bringing the day’s demonstration to a close.
The night after the protest, an account identified as “MSP Special Projects Team” followed Ivan on Instagram. The account is locked and has never posted any photographs; it has no followers and only follows 25 people.
The Massachusetts State Police Special Projects Team is a division of the State Police’s “counterinsurgency” inspired project called C3, which stands for Counter Criminal Continuum. The C3 policing project was started by a former US solider turned State Trooper, Michael Curtone, who decided to apply counterinsurgency tactics he learned in Iraq to Massachusetts cities.
Ivan says he was shocked to see the account follow him on the social media service the night after his involvement with a protest that was broken up by the State Police. “I have to believe that it may be a tactic by the State to continue to repress any form of dissent towards the establishment,” he said, noting that it’s possible the account is a joke set up to scare him.
Does the Massachusetts State Police’s COIN-inspired special projects operation follow youth leaders on social media? If so, why? Ivan isn’t a criminal, and he certainly isn’t a terrorist. Someone should ask the State Police if that account belongs to them, and if so, what they’re doing intimidating young people who are trying to advocate for a better commonwealth.