It’s one thing to assume there are undercover cops in and around OWS, but really chilling to get hit with the news about Wojciech Braszczok. Braszczok apparently wasn’t just another plainsclothes officer who would pop up for a street protests, he was a covert operative (often going by "Al" or "Albert") doing extensive spying inside a peaceful movement concerned with Wall Street greed.
The news about his prolonged undercover surveillance is still going around Occupy circles, but already there are lots of questions. What’s the reason for this very creepy tactic? Is there any legal justification for such spying? Who supervised Brasczok’s work? What were the guidelines for the operation? Who got the reports from this spying? Where did those reports go? Is there any accountability for this? If Braszczok broke the rules, are there any consequences? Was he working to sabotage or provoke? How much taxpayer money was used?
And when will OWS, the public, members of the media or even a court or legislature get to learn more and see if there was any basis the snooping or if this was just a fishing expedition? Given the long history of government sabotage, surveillance and repression of protest movements, this is an important issue.
The revelations about Braszczok come on the heels of the Bloomberg administration and NYPD’s repression of Occupy Wall Street. It included extensive spying, baseless arrests, excess force, and the now-famous pepper spray incidents.
And now a word from comrade Chepe Nangara (you might know him from a Know Your Rights or Copwatch training) for activists wondering how to deal with the visceral revelation of living in a police state:
Activists, what do you do now?
1.) Don't panic. Breath and remember that you have to trust and love other activists or else this kind of scare tactic wins. Call someone you trust if you feel panicked.
2.) Don't snitch jacket other people. Don't spread rumors, or start suspecting people. If you truly suspect someone, don't spread rumors- just cover your tracks and control how much information you give to that person. Be responsible, which means do NOT be paranoid. If you talk to anyone about your suspicions, make sure you know who you talk to and keep that number limited, and ask them not to speak to anyone about it. Do not let mistrust spread.
3.) Do NOT isolate people you are unsure about. Our movements shrink and are weak if we treat people we don't know as suspect. Infiltration sows distrust, which is to the benefit of the 1%, not the 99%. If we trust each other, responsibly, it is to our benefit not the police's.
4.) Think of anything you might have shared with Albert. A password. A key. Consider changing it. Spread his face anywhere he might have gone. Did he go with you out of town? Did he stay at anyone's place? Where was he active?
Stay safe and stay strong. Stronger together.
It may also be useful to read Lisa Fithian's historical account of coming to terms with the revelation that Brandon Darby, a man who had been involved with the RNC protest campaign in 2008, was an FBI informant. If you haven't already, you may also want to familiarize yourself with the ACLU and NYCLU's work in documenting police surveillance of the Occupy Movement.