By Raquel Ronzone, ACLU of Massachusetts communications content specialist
As we pause to honor Veterans Day, ponder this: Boston Police officers assigned to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center—one of dozens of “fusion centers” across the country—have spied on individual peace activists and a variety of groups, including Veterans For Peace’s Chapter 9 Smedley Butler Brigade, the Boston chapter of Veterans for Peace. Not only that, they have labeled these groups “extremist” threats to homeland security.
These details about BPD political surveillance came to light after the ACLU of Massachusetts and the National Lawyers Guild Massachusetts Chapter sued for access to documents and and video surveillance recordings on behalf of five peace groups, four activists and Political Research Associates.
In a letter to the ACLU, a lawyer for the Department explained that “an error in the Department’s software” prevented the records on these peace activists and groups from being purged from the Department’s database.
But that response didn’t acknowledge why the police have been collecting and keeping information about constitutionally protected speech and political activity in the first place—a practice that we were shocked to learn about and are eager to see end.
Since the release of the report last month, more than 1200 people have signed a petition to the Massachusetts state legislature, urging them to support legislation requiring police to have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before they engage in tracking and monitoring of people’s First Amendment-protected activities.
In honor of Veterans Day, please sign the petition now in support of protecting the constitutional rights of speech and association that veterans have defended.