Recent media reports indicate that the RCMP has engaged in surveillance of Black Lives Matter Vancouver, and perhaps other organizations critical of racism in this country.
The latest revelations follow 2015 reports in the Toronto Star that the RCMP had been using dummy Facebook profiles to track BLM activists and rallies, despite the fact that the organization has never posed any threat to public safety. It appears that the very existence of a group of Black activists is enough to be considered dangerous by the Mounties.
VICE News Canada recently obtained what it calls a “cache of intelligence reports obtained … through Canada’s Access to Information Act.” The documents were requested after the killing of five law enforcement officers at a Black Lives Matter protest last year in Dallas. That led the RCMP to look for possible links between what it calls “African American hate groups” and Black Lives Matter in Canada. The RCMP began to surveil the social media accounts of Black Lives Matter Vancouver and its members, but also asked the US State Department through the Vancouver consulate to provide intelligence on U.S. groups which have called for police killings.
What astounds anti-racism activists in the Vancouver area is that the RCMP attentions were spurred by a July 10, 2016 vigil planned by BLM Vancouver for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The shootings of the two men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana led to protests across the United States, including a rally on July 7 in Dallas, where the five officers were shot by a sniper. The killer, Micah Xavier Johnson, was a US military veteran known to have been angered by the prevalence of anti-Black racism among white police officers.
The surveillance of BLM Vancouver was part of an “ops plan,” including social media monitoring of various Facebook, Twitter, and GoFundMe pages linked to the movement, allegedly to “ensure public and law enforcement safety.”
The reports involve input from the RCMP’s B.C. Hate Crime Team, their Criminal Analysis section, and Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSETs), which monitor domestic terrorist threats across Canada.
The RCMP told VICE News that social media tracking does not constitute surveillance. The force claims that their actions were “a matter of conducting due diligence, in regard to public and police officer safety,” and that “no indications of violence” were found. The monitoring continued from mid-July, 2016, until the end of the month, during the same time period that BLM Vancouver called for the city police to be banned from the Vancouver pride parade in early August.
The report concludes: “At this time there are no indications that violence will be used as a tactic.” and notes that it will be a “peaceful rally.” But in a disturbing indication of the true mentality of the police, the report was put into the category of “unfolding event – serious crime”.
No reason has been given for this classification. But the same report containing “threat assessments” of Black Lives Matter Vancouver shows the RCMP looking for Canadian connections to U.S. groups, the so-called “New Black Panther Party” (which has been denounced by members of the original Black Panthers) and the African American Defence League. Not surprisingly, no such connections were found, since these organizations have very sharp political and ideological differences with BLM.
In fact, as VICE News points out, “there has been little indication that the New Black Panther Party has ever been active in Canada, although in 2007 a leader of the organization was barred from entering the country to speak at an event in Toronto.
There are some reports that Micah Johnson, the Dallas gunman, had previously been a member of the New Black Panther Party, but police concluded that Johnson acted alone.