A recently released Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) document titled “Domestic Terrorism Symbols Guide” links common protest symbols to “terrorism” — another marker in a common theme of conflating militant protest for social justice with deadly terrorist violence within the United States. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Brennan Center have raised warnings about such documents, citing inadequate protections for people’s constitutional rights.
In a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas on July 27, the ACLU voiced deep concern about the DHS’s “domestic violent extremism” label, standards for collecting and disseminating information to state and local law enforcement agencies, and the impacts these labels can have on disparately surveilled and policed communities.
History has shown that partnerships with local and state law enforcement agencies too often paint innocent civil and human rights advocates as violent extremists despite never exhibiting such behavior. From Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to Black Lives Matter protesters in Ferguson, Missouri labeled as “Black Identity Extremists” and Stop Cop City protesters charged with mafia-style crimes, proof of targeting groups speaking up for civil rights and racial justice continues today — noted by the newly released FBI document.