The FBI reportedly ran a surveillance operation on a civil rights group in California as part of a “domestic terrorism” investigation that labelled the activists as “extremists” and considered members of the Klu Klux Klan to be victims after protests against neo-Nazis at a rally in 2016.
According to documents obtained by The Guardian, the FBI began spying on By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), after a member of the civil rights group was stabbed at the white supremacist rally in June 2016 in Sacramento.
A 46-page FBI report on the group, which was later obtained through a records request by the government transparency nonprofit organization Property of the People, showed that the agency investigated BAMN for “conspiracy” against the rights of the KKK and white supremacists at the rally.
The agency also stated in the report, which the Guardian noted was heavily redacted, that “the KKK consisted of members that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist agenda” and cited BAMN’s past advocacy issues, which included efforts against “police brutality,” as evidence in the terrorism probe.
The report reportedly stemmed from a 2016 rally that was organized by two white supremacist groups, the Traditionalist Worker Party and the Golden State Skinheads. At the rally, a number of white supremacists were reportedly armed with knives as they faced off against counter-protesters. Neo-Nazis were reportedly suspected of stabbing at least seven counter-protesters at the event.
As The Guardian notes, it is unclear as to why the rally was labelled a KKK event by the FBI. The Traditionalist Workers share many of the Klan's views, but they are separate entities.
“In 2016, law enforcement learned that the Ku Klux Klan would be holding a rally at the State Capitol Building … The KKK consisted of members that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist agenda,” the FBI reportedly states in the report. “In response, a number of groups mobilized to protest the rally. Flyers were posted asking people to attend in order to shut down the rally.”
The FBI also reportedly noted in the documents that it found BAMN to have “lawfully exercised their First Amendment rights by engaging in peaceful protests” in its research of the group but noted that its members “engaged in other activity by refusing to disperse, trespassing in closed buildings, obstructing law enforcement, and shouting during and interrupting public meetings so that the meetings could not continue.”
The agency refused to confirm to The Guardian whether the investigation into BAMN is ongoing or whether the FBI launched a similar investigation into the neo-Nazis who attended the rally in California.
A spokesperson for the FBI told The Guardian that it cannot confirm or deny the existence of certain probes.
“We cannot initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, natural origin, religion, or the exercise of First Amendment rights,” the agency said in a statement to the news outlet. “The FBI does not and will not police ideology.”
The FBI “investigates activity which may constitute a federal crime or pose a threat to national security," the agency also added.