Rann Miller: Beware of COINTELPRO 2.0

By Rann Miller | Guest Blogger AC JosepH Media

Judas and the Black Messiahdetailed William O’Neal’s infiltrating the Chicago Black Panther Party at the behest of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. O’Neal’s involvement with the Chicago branch of Panthers led to the murder of party chairman Fred Hampton by the FBI.

The FBI’s use of O’Neal was part of the bureau’s operation, Cointelpro or Counterintelligence Program.

Cointelpro was a series of covert and illegal activities conducted by the FBI that surveilled, infiltrated and discredited domestic “political” organizations – specifically, organizations led by Black people, functioning for the purpose of Black liberation and civil rights. Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were victims of Cointelpro.

What’s so damaging for the civil rights movement where Cointelpro is concerned, particularly in the case of Fred Hampton’s murder, is that while he was 21 with a child on the way, Hampton was murder for organizing what many would consider rival factions within the community.

Hampton’s coalescing Black Disciples with the Young Patriots Organization, the Chinese American Red Guard and the Young Lords, was the start of a real rainbow coalition, a foundation on which Rev. Jesse Jackson would use during his presidential campaigns. Their goal: to attack racial capitalism at the root to bring about change for poor people of all colors.

This scared the white power structure and Hampton was promptly killed. In order to do that, his organization had to be infiltrated.

The story of Cointelpro can provide current movements for Black liberation with critical lessons on caution regarding who joins their ranks, particularly groups with widespread attention, like the Black Lives Matter movement and organization.

According to their website, the organization, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. (BLM), was founded in 2013 and is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.

There is also another formalized organization, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), which engages in protest activities and local activism.

But the organization(s) are often conflated with the larger movement for Black lives – a non-formalized (by way of 501c3 paperwork) movement dedicated to fighting racism and police brutality against Black people – and therefore both are targets of right-winged political ire and as a result push for harsh anti-protest legislation.

It is important to note that according to research, places where Black lives matter protests occurred saw a reduction in police homicides from 2014 to 2019; but an uptick in murders. In addition, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, BLM is not a hate group.

However, such legislation maybe the least of organizers concerns.

A major concern is the recent revelation that one of the BLM’s co-founder, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, allegedly purchased high end homes in the millions of dollars, drawing scrutiny for members of the movement and organization alike.

This revelation has resurfaced the division between organization founders and community organizers like Johnetta Elzie, an organizer from Ferguson, MO, who assert that Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi are not the founders of the overall movement.

But the more long-term issue for the Black Lives Matter movement is infiltration and it’s because the organizations are synonymous with the wider movement, and therefore anyone can label themselves or others as #blacklivesmatter and sow discord from within or create unpopular sentiment regarding the overall movement.

Consider the insurrection of January 6 and John Sullivan.

Sullivan, a self-proclaimed civil rights activist, appeared at the Capitol insurrection. He’s linked to Black lives matter due to his social media posts yet Black Lives Matter Utah has said that Sullivan is not connected with the group and disavowed any association with Sullivan.

For his behavior, Sullivan was kicked out of numerous protests and is facing riot and criminal mischief charges for his participation in a Black Lives Matter protest in Utah in June, according to Rolling Stone. These have created fodder for Conservatives to link Black Lives Matter to the insurrection, although such links are unfounded.

One cannot conclude that Sullivan is a Black Lives Matter plant, but it is not farfetched.

Black Lives Matter protests aren’t strangers to being infiltrated by white supremacists, carrying Black Lives Matter signs. These agitators have one mission, to disrupt and discredit the movement; employing tactics such as vandalizing and burning buildings throughout protests nationwide.

It isn’t only white supremacists, but it is also law enforcement and the executive branch of the federal government infiltrating the ranks of Black Lives Matter, including the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

These activities have made it easy for congressmen, such as Ron Johnson, to declare that he was less fearful of insurrectionists on January 6 and more fearful of Black lives matter protestors. Such a preposterous statement received backlash, even from one from his own party.

BLM, M4BL, or the wider movement, are no threat to the United States, contrary to what has been said by an FBI report; jumped on by racists and white supremacists alike. The FBI has confirmed that white nationalists/supremacist organizations are the biggest domestic terror threat to the United States.

Yet the truth hasn’t stopped the forging of an agenda meant to discredit and destroy any activism challenging U.S. treatment of Black people throughout its institutions. Thankfully, the United Nations Human Rights Council is exploring American treatment of Black peoples with the hope of shedding international light on the human rights atrocities of the United States.

With that said, organizers and activists with ties to BLM, M4BL, or the movement in general must be vigilant and mindful of those who they associate themselves with. It’s almost inevitable that organizations and groups are infiltrated by spies and disrupters. But infiltrators must be rooted out to sustain movement activities and goal objectives.

Cointelpro provides a cautionary tale to leaders of movements for Black people today.

Racism over time has adapted to meet the needs of political correctness. As Lee Atwater articulated, racism must adapt its language and tactics from overt to covert means. Cointelpro, or some semblance of it, has done the same. While it is certainly plausible that the FBI continues to infiltrate Black organizations, they now have help from white supremacists, who can infiltrate without attending a meeting or receiving any government support.

They show up on the day of a protest and disrupt.

If the collective Black Lives Matter movement wishes to not end up like the Black Panthers for example, fractured and disarmed, it must continue to work to remove such threats, as well as affirm solidarity from within.

Without it, they may squander an opportunity.

Bio: Rann Miller directs the 21st Century Community Learning Center, a federally funded after-school program located in southern New Jersey. He spent years teaching in charter schools in Camden, New Jersey. He is the creator, writer, and editor of the Official Urban Education Mixtape Blog. Follow him on Twitter: @UrbanEdDJ.  

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