In early August, an FBI intelligence assessment was leaked taking aim at a new classifications dubbed “Black Identity Extremists.”  The FBI assessment labeled these groups as dangerous and a “very likely threat” to law enforcement personnel. The document, which was not intended to be released to the public, raises significant concerns that the FBI could unfairly target black community leaders who are constitutionally exercising their 1st Amendment rights.

This wouldn’t be the first time the FBI or other federal agencies have unjustly marked peaceful African American activists. For decades, the federal government has spied on black leaders across the political spectrum, including A. Philip Randolph, Thurgood Marshall, Angela Davis, Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Jesse Jackson. The FBI was notoriously implicated in this type of institutional racism throughout the Civil Rights Era, when it engaged in intense surveillance and disruption of the personal lives of many African American leaders.

In order to prevent the mistakes of the past we, along with a coalition of concerned West Virginia organizations, decided to take action.

Together we sent a letter to the FBI rebuking their approach and encouraging them to take extra precautions to ensure that racism isn’t a factor in any attempts to target so-called “Black Identity Extremists.” We are committed to holding law enforcement agencies accountable and will be watching closely for any actions that invoke constitutional concerns.

We stand strongly against the institutional racism that has plagued our democracy since its founding. History will be watching.

The leaked FBI intelligence assessment, the letter in response and the ACLU-WV Press Release can be found below.