Black Twitter Tapped: Police Monitoring Prominent Activist DeRay McKessen
History should remind us that those who are loud and proud activists are always being watched. We have examples from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Huey P. Newton and today is no different — there are just different means. Black Twitter has been the place to find up-to-the-minute activity on conversations had within the Black community as well as the actions that will be taken as a result and police are watching, closely. In fact, reports show that social justice activist DeRay Mckesson has been monitored by the Federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Mckesson was described as a “professional protestor” who was “known to law enforcement,” in emails circulated by the feds. Vice confirmed the government’s tracking under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
“Mckesson’s Twitter and other social media accounts were being monitored by DHS last May during the height of the protests in Baltimore that followed the death of Freddie Gray,” reported Vice. If Mckesson was being followed, the government h’s interest has more than likely spread across to other activists as well. Another probe under the FOIA, found that law enforcers were also monitoring locations of protest across New York City, Ferguson, Baltimore including peaceful silent vigils.
Mckesson has over 200,000 followers on Twitter and uses the platform to organize and keep followers aware of the happenings in social justice news. He received the Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership by Teach for America who states his “deft use of social media provided Ferguson citizens with a viral voice.” He is just one of many prominent activists feds are sure to have their eyes on.
And yes, all of this activity is legal, even though seemingly unconstitutional. Emails found by the feds contained the subject line “FYSA,” an abbreviation for “For Your Situational Awareness” a practice that allows police and the federal government to do “surveillance of lawful, First Amendment-protected political speech.” This includes tweets.
“Those two words (situational awareness) don’t change what police are doing, however: spending precious public resources watching activists’ internet use, and sending out reports to other law enforcement officials tracking the protected political activity of law abiding dissidents,” Kade Crockford told Vice. Crockford works for the ACLU magazine.
“Apologists for this kind of chilling, wasteful government spying would likely say that Deray Mckesson’s tweets are public, and therefore he has no right to privacy in them. But just because police can do something doesn’t mean they should,” Crockford concluded.
Are the feds going too far monitoring activists social media activity?