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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, more than 40 racial-justice and civil-liberties groups delivered a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release an unredacted version of a memo referred to as the “Race Paper.” According to DHS, the memo allegedly covers efforts by U.S. authorities to monitor domestic terrorism driven by race-related “extremist” ideologies.

The FBI came under heavy criticism in 2017 for creating the designation ”Black Identity Extremist" as a discriminatory measure to target racial-justice advocates for surveillance and prosecution. Similarly, the DHS memo appears to wrongly characterize peaceful, anti-racist groups carrying out protests as worthy of invasive and persistent surveillance.

“We are concerned that biases and inaccuracies reflected in the ‘Race Paper’ could result in unconstitutional law enforcement activities throughout the country that disproportionately impact activists, protesters, and communities of color,” reads the letter. The signers include 18 Million Rising, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Media Justice, Color Of Change, Free Press, the Muslim Justice League, the NAACP, the National Lawyers Guild, Project Censored, the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Race Paper’s existence came to light following a 2016 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Color Of Change. However, DHS redacted the entire document. Subsequent requests revealed that the document was intended to address the alleged co-opting of peaceful racial-justice protests by violent, race-related ideologues. But as the letter explains, “there is no evidence that Black racial justice and anti-police brutality activism has been co-opted in such a manner.”

The full letter to DHS is available here.

Free Press Government Relations Director Sandra Fulton made the following statement:

“There is zero evidence that Black activist movements fighting for racial justice and against police brutality have been co-opted by violent terrorists. Yet DHS has constructed a surveillance regime based on this unproven theory that improperly targets Black people’s constitutionally protected speech and associations. And now the agency is refusing to provide more information about its dishonest and discriminatory tactics.

“Withholding these documents only fuels public distrust of DHS while fanning the flames of racism in our society. Given our country’s long history of discriminatory policing, the content of this potentially inflammatory document should not remain hidden from public view.”

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