Maybe the LAPD doesn’t have the experience its counter-coastal counterpart has in inflicting damage to rights and liberties, but it’s trying, dammit! The NYPD’s brushes with the Constitution are numerous and perpetual. The LAPD may have spent more time working on the Fourth and Fifth Amendments during its Rampart peak, but now it’s rolling up on the First Amendment like a repurposed MRAP on a small town lawn.
The Los Angeles Police Department ordered a confidential informant to monitor and record meetings held by a political group that staged protests against President Trump in 2017, a move that has drawn concern and consternation from civil rights advocates.
On four separate occasions in October 2017, the informant entered Echo Park United Methodist Church with a hidden recorder and captured audio of meetings held by the Los Angeles chapter of Refuse Fascism, a group that has organized a number of large-scale demonstrations against the Trump administration in major U.S. cities, according to court records reviewed by The Times.
Perhaps no entities show more concern about opposition to fascism than law enforcement agencies, for some weird and completely inexplicable reason. Somehow, this investigation involved the Major Crimes Division, which felt the need to get involved because of all the major criminal activity that is the hallmark of protest groups.
What sort of major crimes are we talking about? Well, let’s just check the record…
Police reports and transcripts documenting the informant’s activities became public as part of an ongoing case against several members of Refuse Fascism who were charged with criminal trespassing…
I see the term “major” has been redefined by the Major Crimes Division to encompass anything it might feel the urge to investigate. Supposedly, this incursion on the First Amendment was the result of an “abundance of caution” following reports of violent clashes between anti-fascists and alt-right demonstrators at other protests/rallies.
Again, the LAPD seems to not understand the meaning of the words it uses, because an “abundance of caution” should have resulted in steering clear of First Amendment-protected activities, rather than infiltrating them.
Also, an abundance of caution might have resulted in the LAPD checking out the other set of theoretical combatants, but the Los Angeles Times reports a police official said no attempt was made to infiltrate any far-right protest groups.
“Major.” “Caution.” “Consistency.” These words are beyond the department’s comprehension. And here’s the kicker: the Major Crimes Division did not send its informant in until after the demonstration was already over, the freeway had already been blocked, and criminal trespassing charges had already been brought. This wasn’t an investigation. It was a fishing expedition targeting people who don’t like fascists that used the First Amendment as a doormat. Calls to the LAPD’s Irony Division were not returned.
I guess we’re all supposed to feel better about this now that the LAPD has promised to investigate itself over its First Amendment-infringing infiltration. But it seems a department that routinely struggles to use words properly and cannot steer clear of the Constitutional shoreline shouldn’t be trusted to run a fax machine, much less an internal investigation.
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