Privacy SOS

FBI is tracking “a significant Ferguson protester,” most likely DeRay Mckesson

New reporting on the fallout at the University of Missouri over student protests alleging administration racism reveals that the FBI has been tracking the movements of “a significant Ferguson protester,” most likely DeRay Mckesson. Student activists and the UM football team succeeded in getting the system’s former president, Tim Wolfe, to resign from his post. 

The Missourian reports:

The former president’s motivation to resign was largely because of safety concerns, Wolfe said. The UM System called upon diversity and inclusion consulting experts after officials learned about a “pending event” on Nov. 9, the day Wolfe resigned.

According to Wolfe, the consulting experts “along with the FBI, Missouri Highway Patrol, Columbia Police Department and MU Campus police were aware of a significant Ferguson protester” and a threat that more protesters were arriving at campus that day.

On Nov. 9, after mounting protests from students and a strike from the MU football team, Wolfe resigned, Loftin stepped down, and graduate student Jonathan Butler ended his eight-day hunger strike.

Mckesson attended protests at the university on November 9, and was reportedly in town to advise the student activists. Why is the FBI, a federal agency charged with preventing terrorism and investigating serious federal crimes, wasting its time tracking the activities of a non-violent activist organizing to end police brutality? The dominant narrative in the United States today holds that the bad old days of Hoover’s COINTELPRO are over. If that were true, the FBI wouldn’t be advising university presidents about the movements of peaceful dissidents. 

Hardly a day goes by without the FBI demanding some new power, whether it’s to hack into computers or to decrypt private communications. Why should we give the FBI another inch as long as it engages in this kind of domestic political policing? The next time the FBI director warns about the grave threat posed by foreign and domestic terrorists, someone should ask him why, if he’s so worried about political violence, his agency is still tracking Black activists, just like they did during the Hoover days. 

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.