Exclusive: Feds went undercover to investigate peaceful demonstrations in Detroit, Lansing
Feds went undercover to investigate protests over the emergency manager, wages for teachers and city workers, inadequate transportation and rising poverty. No violence ever broke out.
The Department of Homeland Security spied daily on rallies in Detroit and Lansing over the emergency manager, wages for teachers and city workers, inadequate transportation and rising poverty during the peak of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Motor City Muckraker has learned from records stamped confidential.
Federal Protective Service officials in Detroit sent daily briefings to Washington D.C. on protests in places such as Lansing, the Ambassador Bridge, city hall, Bank of America and several state and federal buildings in downtown Detroit, according to records confirmed by federal authorities.
Concerns were raised over peaceful protests against Gov. Rick Snyder for appointing emergency managers in Michigan cities and school districts. The protests were peaceful and law-abiding, the unnamed officials said in a briefing to headquarters.
The feds also monitored teacher and city unions, transportation advocates, anti-poverty activists and Occupy demonstrators – all of whom were peaceful, the report states. But feds still spied, keeping track 0f strategies, meetings, media presence and even the weather.
According to the records, many protestors were angry with Snyder for taking over the finances of cash-strapped cities. They claim there has been “overt action to subvert our democracy and our system of representative government,” the undercover federal official wrote.
In October 2011, feds kept close tabs on Grand Circus Park as more than 200 protestors set up tents during the height of the Occupy movement. Despite the peaceful gatherings, federal authorities considered breaking up the demonstrators.
“We are not making any decision right now to move them out as of yet,” the official wrote. “However I have been tasked with coming up with an exit strategy.”
Two federal officials went undercover to spy on Occupy protesters and others during a rally in Lansing from Oct. 15-17. Records identify the officials only as Burdett and Argillander.
Again, no problems were reported.
The records focused mostly on 2011, so it’s unclear when the surveillance ended, if ever.
Demonstrations have been breaking out daily since last week’s arrival of Detroit’s new emergency manager, Kevyn Orr.
Stay tuned for updates as we talk to federal authorities, protesters and free-speech lawyers.
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Steve Neavling, who lives on the city’s east side, is an investigative journalist, a freelance reporter for Reuters and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Neavling explores corruption, Detroit’s unsung heroes and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.