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Chicago cops admit they spied on activists
Return of the Red Squad

By Nicole Colson | February 27, 2004 | Page 2

CHICAGO POLICE are reviving the Red Squad--the infamous police goon squad that for decades spied on and harassed left-wing activists. According to the Chicago Sun Times, a recent internal police audit showed that in 2002, undercover officers "infiltrated" meetings and rallies of the Chicago Direct Action Network, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Autonomous Zone, Not in Our Name and Anarchist Black Cross--and recorded the proceedings on video and audiotape.

Police say that the groups were legitimate targets because they were linked to a Web site discussing plans to protest the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue (TABD)--a meeting of super-elite corporate heads that took place in Chicago in November 2002. "I think it's outrageous that there is local police surveillance of legitimate groups that are undertaking their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly," Michael McConnell, AFSC's regional director, told Socialist Worker.

"We are concerned that this may be part of a larger national pattern which is part of the PATRIOT Act, the whole climate that Attorney General John Ashcroft is creating in this country--a climate of suspicion, and a climate that is trying to undermine dissent."

According to the Sun Times, police admit that they infiltrated at least four other groups in 2003. But the cops won't say what groups, why, or if they are continuing to do so.

Worst of all, all of this is perfectly legal. When Chicago police harassment became widely known in the 1970s, the embarrassment eventually forced the city into agreeing to refrain from spying on or disrupting political groups. But in 2001, an appeals court gutted the agreement--after the city claimed that it prevented investigations into "terrorism" and street gangs.

"The era in which the Red Squad flourished is history, along with the Red Squad itself," the court ruling said. "The city does not want to resurrect the Red Squad. It wants to be able to keep tabs on incipient terrorist groups." But Chicago cops aren't trying to stop "terrorism"--they're attempting to squelch dissent. As McConnell put it, "I think the fact that groups who are trying to voice their opinion are being suspected and therefore infiltrated is a danger to democracy--and in fact is the enemy of democracy."

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