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FBI Labels Black Activists A Security Threat

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The FBI has categorized black activists as a national security threat.

Foreign Policy revealed in October the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division broadly labeled black activists as "Black Identity Extremists" [BIE] on Aug. 3, shortly before white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia.

They join a list of nine other groups the FBI calls "persistent extremist movements" in the United States which range from white supremacists to animal, abortion, and environmental rights activists.

Since January, police have shot and killed 748 individuals; 168 were African Americans.

The FBI reports refers to black activists' concerns about police brutality as "perceived" and "alleged."

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"The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence," the report reads.

News of the report has sparked outrage and controversy among activists and authorities alike.

"This is a new umbrella designation that has no basis," a former senior counterterrorism and intelligence official from the Department of Homeland Security said. "There are civil rights and privacy issues all over this."

"They are grouping together Black Panthers, black nationalists, and Washitaw Nation," added the former official. "Imagine lumping together white nationals, white supremacists, militias, neo-Nazis, and calling it 'white identity extremists.'"

Yet to some, the report does not come as a shock. Many argue the FBI is simply repeating history.

"There is a long tradition of the FBI targeting black activists and this is not surprising," DeRay McKesson, an activist involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, said.

In the past, the FBI used extrajudicial means to target civil rights leaders such as Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

Former FBI Director James Comey even kept a copy of the King Jr. wiretap order in his office as a reminder of the FBI's abusive past.

"The FBI’s new designation sends a clear message to anyone, but especially to black organizers, who would dissent that we had better lay down and take it or else," Shanelle Matthews and Malkia Cyril argue for The Washington Post about the recent BIE label.

However, the FBI has spoken out in defense of the new categorization.

"Domestic terrorism groups differ from traditional criminal groups in that they take action for a different purpose, to bring attention to a social or political cause," the organization wrote. "Therefore, their existence as a group has a legitimate purpose, at least in part. Their legitimate activity may include acts of protest, advocacy, and civil disobedience."

Sources: Foreign Policy, The Washington Post / Featured Image: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr / Embedded Images: Fibonacci Blue/FlickrNobel Foundation via Wikimedia Commons

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