"They are not a security risk in any way, shape or form, so I don't know why that monitoring would have taken place," NYC Mayor de Blasio said.
Hundreds of recently released New York Police Department (NYPD) emails show the extent of efforts officers in the city took to closely monitor activists during Black Lives Matter protests that took hold in the city after the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of police officers in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri, respectively.
Internal emails obtained by attorney M.J. Williams through a Freedom of Information Law request were initially reported by The Appeal.
According to those documents, undercover officers had infiltrated groups of protesters and reported back to superiors with updates while also photographing activists who were seen as leaders during marches from November 2014 to January 2015.
Williams said the emails are evidence that the NYPD was surveilling the Black Lives Matter movement.
"The assumption that the police are there to keep people like those who are participating in those protests safe is a falsehood," Williams said.
In response, NYPD released a statement denying the allegations. "The NYPD does not interfere with Constitutionally-protected activities, and did not investigate Black Lives Matter as a political organization or movement," according to a statement. "The NYPD was focused on ensuring the safety of the public, protesters and officers at these events."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was concerned that the NYPD may have been surveilling the Black Lives Matter movement, which he described as "nonviolent."
"I have no understanding of why there would need to be any monitoring so I will of course wait for the details," de Blasio said. "But they are not a security risk in any way, shape or form, so I don't know why that monitoring would have taken place."
Black Lives Matter protests have been monitored by the U.S. government and have been seen as a potential threat, according to documents released last year by the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Black Lives Matter was founded five years ago by three radical Black organizers—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in the United States in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. It has grown into an international movement that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards Black people.
“Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression,” the organization states on their website.