Anarchy in the ATX
John Anderson, October 30, 2020
According to a May 9, 2016, police report, three activists protesting unpaid prison labor hung a banner over I-35 during morning rush hour traffic. Although the attending officer didn’t issue tickets and left the scene after only giving warnings for a traffic hazard, he soon discovered one of the protesters had “possible ties to known anarchists.” A few hours later, the report, which described the group’s political affiliations, was filed with the Austin Regional Intelligence Center.
The “Suspicious Activity Report” was one of a handful about anarchists exposed in BlueLeaks, a recent nationwide hack of information, including from ARIC, a multiagency “fusion center” operated by Austin police. As a response to the perceived failures of intelligence sharing that enabled the 9/11 attacks, centers like ARIC were designed to “fuse” information that could help avert terrorism and criminal activity. But the reports on anarchists reflect the mission drift that is seen often among fusion centers toward monitoring activity (such as identifying oneself as an “anarchist”) that’s protected by the First Amendment.
In this particular report, the primary subject is described as being “listed as a member of Occupy Austin.” They asked the Chronicle to keep their identity anonymous, but they acknowledged being a teacher, a participant with Occupy, and a “local anarchist organizer who has worked with houseless and incarcerated Austinites since 2011.” When asked about being “listed,” they asserted that “[former APD] Chief Art Acevedo was famous for learning the first names of activists during and after Occupy and either cozying up to or vilifying them.”