It would be nice if law enforcement agents knocking on the doors of activists came as a surprise. Yet, as the Dissent NewsWire has repeatedly over the years reported on how both federal and local law enforcement love to pay activists visits at their homes. As a result, it sadly comes as no surprise to learn that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Secret Service, and local law enforcement has been paying visits to activists ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
According to a press release from the Ohio National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the Cleveland NAACP, they have “received over a dozen reports” of such “door knocks.” The FBI has confirmed to The Intercept that such visits have taken place, stating they were “working collaboratively with members of the community.”
Collaboration is one way to describe what the FBI and other law enforcement agents are up. Jocelyn Rosnick of the Ohio NLG put it differently, “The purpose of these door knocks is simple: to intimidate the target and others in an effort to discourage people from engaging in lawful First Amendment activities”
Reportedly activists were being asked about political affiliations, plans for protest during the RNC, and their past addresses. The FBI told residents at at least one home they visited that they wanted to ask about any information they may have about individuals planning on engaging in violence.
None of the individuals visited are suspected of anything other than being activists. This is deeply troubling as it means that law enforcement means political speech is suspicion of criminal activity or that it is their role to police politics.
The FBI and DHS have repeatedly demonstrated that they cannot discern between political expression and criminal activity. That is why we have called on the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to investigate the FBI and the DHS’s abuse of its counterterrorism authority to surveil activism. While this call for an investigation, which over sixty other groups have endorsed, was in direct response to other instances of FBI and DHS misconduct, the fact that the FBI and DHS have only continued to spy on dissent only strengthens the need for Congressional action.