The following is a brief public statement to all organizations and individuals who associate or support STPLA. We publicize this for two main reasons: 1.) to warn people who are organizing politically that the state isn’t just watching; their local and federal agents are actively collecting information and, where possible, infiltrating groups, and 2.) to keep this transparent so that, worst case scenario, if one of our members or supporters gets picked up by the state or suffers some other form of punishment for their political organizing, we can launch a support plan while simultaneously exposing the brutality of the state.
A little less than a month ago, supporters contacted us to say they had been questioned and were investigated by the FBI. The supporters said the FBI agents asked several questions about their political organizing, past and present, asking to name specific groups they’ve been organizing with, among other things.
The agents informed them of the reason for this investigation: something posted online. The supporters posted about how if fascists are attacking persecuted communities, then those communities have a right to defend themselves. The post itself, in our opinion, contains nothing controversial in that context as a matter of self-defense. Either way, according to them, the federal agents said it was enough to investigate into their past and present political organizing. The agent’s line of questioning, then, centered around the supporters potential knowledge of antifa. The supporters immediately notified us. They wanted to make sure we knew about this and that we plan accordingly.
We know anytime a community or organization comes together to organize independently from the government, and try to find solutions to our injustices, that same government will try to attack and destroy that community or organization. The U.S. government did this to the Black Panthers, to the Brown Berets, to the American Indian Movement and every civil rights, peace and anti-war movement in the country. And now the government is taking aim at the anti-gentrification and antifa movements. The government has always investigated groups that question and challenge the brutality of the government. The government has investigated antifa clashes with fascists in the past and there are several documented cases where undercover cops were discovered infiltrating and even sabotaging groups, even non-antifa socialist groups, such as in March 2017 when a socialist group organized a rally in Colorado Springs.
Since 2011, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. government has investigated anti-gentrification activists and has classified them as “terrorists” for vandalism and arson incidents in Michigan and Washington. DHS went on to say that they are “actively seeking additional reporting from law enforcement about incidents of anarchist extremists targeting sites they associate with “gentrification.”’ Here in Boyle Heights, back in November 2016, after someone tagged the front of gentrifier art gallery Nicodim Gallery and two other unnamed incidents, the Boyle Heights Hollenbeck division of the LAPD has investigating those cases as possible “hate crimes,” and specifically named the anti-gentrification coalition Defend Boyle Heights as a group of interest. And this year after someone broke the window (twice) of the new gentrifier coffee shop Weird Wave, local law enforcement, according to credible sources, has been investigating that vandalism as another “hate” crime. (But who is being hated? Anti-gentrification activists are accused of hating white people but also are accused of being exclusively white, so which is it? Are they anti-white people or are they all white people?)
STPLA are proud co-founders and members of DBH and we won’t let local or federal law enforcement intimidation tactics scare us from doing the necessary work. If the FBI, DHS and LAPD want to lock us all up for giving out free food, clothing and resources for tenants and immigrants, then what does that tell you about this country’s ideals? Who are they serving? Who does law enforcement protect? Are they friends or enemies?
We encourage all members, volunteers and supporters to treat security culture seriously. Don’t post selfies or easily identify yourself. Don’t post carelessly on social media. Always be on alert. Be disciplined. Be careful what you say about political organizing around strangers. Vet your members. Make sure you know who they are. Watch out for strangers suggesting you or your organization should recklessly commit illegal actions. Don’t talk to cops or feds – and if they force themselves on you somehow, publicize that encounter, make it go viral (the more attention you have, the more support you can gather, and the less likely it will be for the state to mess with you if you’re in the public eye). They will use any information against you, your loved ones or comrades. Don’t let them into your home. All serious political organizers should know their rights, have contacts with local National Lawyers Guild and have a big base of support (ideally, the majority of the community should know about you and your organization) and have a plan of action in case a member, volunteer or supporter gets taken in by the cops or feds.
Because the anti-gentrification movement in Boyle Heights has attracted a huge amount of support and attention, it has to be assumed that we will inevitably face repression from law enforcement. We are not assuming law enforcement isn’t investigating or infiltrating our spaces; that has been proven to be the case now. So, then, the next phase has to be about preparation.
Let’s be clear. The FBI, DHS and LAPD want the anti-gentrification movement to end. They want the weekly STPLA food and clothing program to end. They want antifa to end. They want all left and progressive activists who dare to struggle for a better tomorrow to be too scared to keep doing the work. You see, we’re pushing too far, not asking politely, not turning in the proper petitions or paperwork, not sitting down at the table with the cops, the feds or the city council. We want too much, we have too little. We want freedom, and we won’t stop until we get it.