DRAD Joins Black and Brown Activists for “Safety , Not Surveillance” Congressional Advocacy Day

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By Cody Bloomfield

In the wake of the January 6 white supremacist attack on the Capitol, Congress has considered expanding surveillance and instituting harsher penalties for domestic terrorism. Ending white supremacist violence is essential, but these proposed solutions only propagate surveillance and targeting of activists of color. These proposals hand over more power and funding to the same organizations that have historically surveilled Black, Brown, Muslim, and Middle Eastern activists, eroded communities of color, and criminalized dissent.

As part of our campaign to resist these proposals, Defending Rights & Dissent, along with other members of the Black & Brown Activism Defense Collective (BBADC), and Media Justice, organized a Congressional advocacy day. On April 7, dozens of grassroots activists from around the country gathered virtually to advocate for “Safety, Not Surveillance: End Targeting of Black and Brown Activists.” 

Our coalition of civil liberties defense organizations, civil rights groups, and racial justice community organizations called on key members of Congress to oppose expansion of surveillance and discriminatory use of government power. The coalition’s demands included:

  1. No new domestic terrorism laws or charges
  2. End Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP)
  3. Require data on targeting by race, ethnicity, and religion
  4. No new surveillance authorities
  5. No new money to federal law enforcement; invest in marginalized communities

Representatives from DRAD and our fellow coalition members held meetings with Congressional staffers, where we shared concerns with proposed legislation, advocated against existing discriminatory surveillance programs such as TVTP, and called on Congress to exercise its investigative and oversight powers to hold the FBI accountable for sharing statutorily-mandated data and reports. Action steps resulting from these meetings ranged from opening additional dialogue around concerns about proposed bills to organizing political education for staffers to collaborating on forward-thinking upcoming legislation. DRAD, BBADC, and Media Justice look forward to working with our allies in Congress to prevent the expansion of surveillance, require FBI data disclosures, and end discriminatory Countering Violent Extremism programs including TVTP.