Police information that calls BLM a ‘terrorist’ group attracts outrage | US & Canada
A prominent law enforcement training group is promoting a lengthy research document full of falsehoods and conspiracies calling on local police to treat Black Lives Matter activists as “terrorists” planning a violent revolution.
The document, distributed by the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, contains misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric that could incite officers against protesters and people of color, critics said. It is alleged that Black Lives Matter and Antifa, short for anti-fascists, are “revolutionary movements whose aim is to overthrow the US government” and claim they are planning “extreme violence”.
Phillip Atiba Goff, a Yale University professor who is an expert on racial prejudice in policing, described the document as dangerous and noted that the association is a major source of educational materials for many small and medium-sized departments across the country.
NYPD officials hold Black Lives Matter protesters on Brooklyn Bridge [File: Yuki Iwamura/AP Photo]”It’s breathtaking. It’s worrying in many ways. It’s not tied to reality,” said Goff, CEO of the Center for Policing Equity. “I worry about people dying unnecessarily.”
The association posted a link to the 176-page article, entitled Understanding Antifa and Urban Guerrilla Warfare, in an email news update to its thousands of members in October. The document, labeled “Law Enforcement Only Restricted”, is one of the few publicly available materials on its website. The Associated Press found out about the document from a member of the police force.
The group’s executive director, Harvey Hedden, defended what he described as a member’s opinion, which was open to criticism and debate. He said the association supports sharing ideas and strategies to improve criminal justice training but does not support specific approaches.
Hedden argued that reviewing the paper or restricting its distribution would constitute censorship and that its publication would allow peer review by other trainers.
“There will always be disagreements on training issues, but as long as the disagreement remains professional rather than personal, we will not censor these ideas,” he said. “I am ready to allow the trainer to evaluate the information himself.”
He added, “Like law enforcement, I fear that BLM has earned some of these criticisms and others may lead to over-generalization.”
The Black Lives Matter movement came into being in 2013 following the acquittal of the Florida man who fatally shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and exploded in size and influence earlier this year following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Protests across the country have been largely peaceful, but have occasionally been marked by clashes with police or property destruction. Since then, many activists have worked to reduce the size and cost of the local police force and to revise police training.
A protester holding a picture of George Floyd during a Black Lives Matter rally in Brooklyn [File: Kathy Willens/AP Photo]The law enforcement association, known by its nickname ILEETA, stated in a mission statement that it is “committed to reducing the risk of law enforcement” and that it is saving lives through high-quality training. The association sponsors its annual conference, due next March in St. Louis, as “the world’s largest gathering of law enforcement educators.” It publishes a research journal, provides other educational and training materials, and operates a Facebook page where members can network and exchange ideas.
An official from Color of Change, a nationwide organization promoting racial justice, on Wednesday urged police authorities to sever training relationships with the association, saying it fostered a warlike mindset that is leading to more conflict in the communities.
“Reading is unsettling, but not at all surprising to me. This is the kind of thinking that is sadly quite prominent in police culture, ”said Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns.
Goff, the professor, said police officers with whom he discussed the document this week “were disturbed by it.” He and others said it was irresponsible for the group to promote the paper.
“This document is below the belt because there is so much misinformation about how many conspiracy theories there are, how much violence it promotes, and how many reasons there are to justify dehumanizing people,” said Sherice Nelson, assistant professor of political science at Southern University and A&M College studying black political movements.
Black Lives Matter protesters march through Portland, Oregon [File: Noah Berger/AP Photo]She said the newspaper repeatedly promotes “wildly bizarre” claims about Black Lives Matter, shows cultural ignorance by falsely bringing the movement into conflict with Antifa, and inducing officers to use violence by painting both of them as “terrorists” planning to kill the police.
Among the many unsupported claims are that the two movements have “trained, dedicated snipers” stationed in certain cities, are front lines for Russia and China, and planned attacks before and after last month’s presidential elections.
The paper claims those who took part in months-long protests in Portland and Seattle earlier this year were “useful idiots” to protect the “die-hard, terrorist-trained troops” who would follow. “Extreme acts of violence are expected and demanded,” warns the document.
The paper claims that military officials who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are concerned about the movements because they “saw how this type of terrorist group organized, caused riots and the dire consequences of it”.
The FBI is largely “clueless” of the nature of their threat and, along with the news media, has falsely focused its attention on the violence of the white supremacists, it argues.
Goff, whose group works with departments to make policing “less racist and deadly,” said the document shows why it is important for critics to contact local law enforcement directly to look for changes.
Otherwise he said: “You are leaving this job to the worst impulses in this country.”