NYPD Infiltrated BLM to Gain Information About Demonstrations

The New York Police Department managed to infiltrate Black Lives Matter and gain access to some of the group’s innermost leaders and information, documents show.

In February a judge had demanded the NYPD release written and video surveillance of BLM between 2014 and 2015 under the Freedom of Information Law. The documents, first reported by The Guardian, reveal intimate, specific details on protest locations and details.

None of the documents appear to indicate any criminal activity, which brings into question the NYPD’s infiltration of the group.

The private nature of the messages suggests that the undercover officer or officers were so entrusted by the group that they were either receiving these private messages themselves or had access to a BLM leader’s phone.

“Die In Grand Central 8 PM,” one text message reads.


“That text loop was definitely just for organizers, I don’t know how that got out,” Elsa Waithe, a Black Lives Matter organizer, told The Guardian. “Someone had to have told someone how to get on it, probably trusting someone they had seen a few times in good faith. We clearly compromised ourselves.”

Keegan Stephan, who regularly attended Grand Central protests with the group, believes the source “was somebody who was or is very much a part of the group, and has access to information we only give to people we trust.”

Emails associated with pictures also suggest the department was trying to determine who the leader of the group was. One image is labeled with the description: “Approx 15 in GC. Brown jacket is main protester.”


Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD detective sergeant, explained, “If you take out the biggest mouth, everybody just withers away, so you concentrate on the ones you believe are your organizers.”

Several photos are simply pictures of crowds of protesters. Numerous emails indicate how many protesters were in attendance at any given time and provide real-time updates of the group’s movements:

“[Redacted] reports 10 protesters in GC just standing about w a large uniform presence also in GC.”

“Group from G.C. walking west on 42 in street. Just passed 5 ave..”

“[Redacted] states that a group of individuals will stay at city hall park then head to Staten Island and another group will ne (sic) heading to grand central station.”

Even very small protests were reported on, showing just how much access the officer or officers had to the group:

“[Redacted] reports GC crowd down to 5 people—still just standing about.”

“[Redacted] an (sic) a group of 7 is heading to grand central station.”


The question now is whether or not the department obtained the information legally and in line with the Handschu Guidelines, which are the rules by which police can obtain information. According to The Guardian, “the NYPD can begin formally investigating [First Amendment] activity ‘when facts or circumstances reasonably indicate that an unlawful act has been, is being, or will be committed.'”

No crimes seem to have been committed.

“Black Lives Matter is a political critic of the NYPD, and undercover infiltration of BLM is political action by the NYPD. The documents uniformly show no crime occurring, but NYPD had undercovers inside the protests for months on end as if they were al Qaeda. This is not law enforcement, it is NYPD acting politically while wearing guns, and using the authority and secrecy the NYPD is granted as political weapons,” said attorney David Thompson, who worked on the filing to have the documents released.

Michael Price of the Brennan Center for Justice told The Guardian that the documents do not appear to indicate unlawful activity.

“Most references are to protesters being peaceful, so I would be very concerned if they were hinging their whole investigation on civil disobedience, such as unpermitted protests or blocking of pedestrians,” Price said.

A recent Handschu settlement “prohibit[s] investigations in which race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin is a substantial or motivating factor,” according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The scope of surveillance of BLM has been called into question before. In October a lawsuit was filed against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for not releasing information regarding surveillance of BLM protesters and activists. According to the filing, the FBI and DHS “relied on tactics and measures commonly reserved for counterterrorism and national security related purposes.”

An exclusive report fromThe Interceptin 2015 reported that DHS had been monitoring protesters’ activity since Ferguson. According to the report, DHS had been monitoring social media accounts to track protests even ones that were predicted to be peaceful. A DHS FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) “WatchOps Officer” was able to gather information via Twitter and Vine to create a map of “conflict zones” in Ferguson in August 2014.

The Intercept reported that “some of the documents show that the DHS has produced minute-by-minute reports on protesters’ movements in demonstrations.”

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