How Did the PPD Infiltrate Protests?
During the uprisings against racist police violence following the murder of George Floyd in June, 2020, the Department of Justice granted increased law enforcement capabilities to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This unconstitutional move drew immediate criticism from civil rights advocates and legislators who demanded its immediate reversal. But the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) seized this opportunity to side-step a decades-old restriction on the infiltration of protests and activist groups. In emails obtained by Citizens for Ethics (CREW), PPD can be seen asking DEA agents to conduct covert surveillance from within protests to identify protest leaders and surveil progressive organizations.
Police spokesperson Sgt. Eric Gripp said the request “did not rise to the level of ‘operation’ that required approval” by the police commissioner, but emails suggest otherwise, stating that “the overall operation is being guided by PPD Intelligence and the groundwork is being conducted by PPD Major Crimes.” Subsequent emails clearly indicate PPD’s leadership and participation in the operations at every level.
The emails also show extensive online monitoring of protests, with an intense focus on the June 6th, 2020 protest called by the Party for Socialism and Liberation in collaboration with other community organizations. This event drew a record number of protesters into the streets to demand an end to racist police brutality and the repression of protest. Agents were advised to “dress in a fashion that will allow you to bend [sic] in with the crowds. Masks and bag packs are a good idea.” Documents show that 12 teams of agents and officers were assigned to infiltrate the protest for purposes of surveillance and intelligence gathering.
Why Did the PPD Infiltrate Protests?
The willingness of PPD under Democratic party leadership to collaborate with the GOP-led Department of Justice and DEA to violate the rights of protesters is just one example of how the ruling class is united in their disregard for the rights and the will of the people.
Why would the PPD need to covertly surveil peaceful protests calling for an end to violence against Black people? And why would the PPD want to “identify protest leaders” — what’s wrong with leading a protest? What purpose does spying on and infiltrating community organizations engaging in peaceful protest serve? It “serves and protects” the ruling class by maintaining the racist, capitalist status quo through violence and intimidation. When the people fight against the injustices of the system, the protectors of the status quo — the police — are deployed to squash the people’s power and silence our voices.
But one thing is clear: on June 6, 2020 and all throughout the summer’s uprisings, the ruling class felt and heard the power of the people.