Private security groups regularly sent Minnesota police misinformation about protesters

0
37

“I felt like I was in a nightmare. It was just so profoundly incongruous,” she says. “Honestly, I felt quite humiliated by it because there were all these people trying to talk and they were drowning out.” Ruddock says: “It was so grotesque and clearly meant to let me know they were watching me.” CRG had identified her, found a video of her music, and “beamed my music through my neighborhood.”

“I felt like I was going to have a panic attack,” she says. Ruddock tried to explain the situation to other activists — many of whom didn’t know she was a musician, let alone her song — and quickly left the protest. She doesn’t know why she was chosen, but suspects it was because she was regularly present in the Seven Points area with camera in hand, photographing the unrest in her neighborhood.

CRG also played recordings of speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. to drown out chants at protests, according to three activists we spoke with. According to Rick Hodsdon, the chairman of the Minnesota Board of Private Detectives and Protective Agent Services, no formal complaints have been filed against CRG. A complaint would lead to an investigation by the agency and could lead to revocation of security licenses and possible criminal charges.

A look at the “intel reports”

What Ruddock couldn’t have known is that CRG was also operating as a secret intelligence agency for the Minneapolis Police Department. According to emails obtained by MIT Technology Review, CRG monitored activists in Uptown and often sent reports to the department. One such 17-page report, titled “Initial Threat Assessment,” described organizers as part of “antifa,” a term often used in far-right discussions to exaggerate the threat by radical left political groups. Ruddock has been identified as one of the leaders of antifa, a claim she calls “ridiculous” and says she is “never affiliated with antifa or extremist groups.”

An email from CRG to MPD dated August 2021

(MIT Technology Review does not publish the reports we reviewed because of the risk of spreading false and potentially defamatory information.)

Some of the reports include information sourced from the internet and social media, as well as photos of Ruddock and other activists. In an exchange between Seven Points and MPD, Seven Points referred to CRG’s “surveillance cameras.” Some information comes from the AntifaWatch website, including mugshots of Ruddock and other activists from a mass arrest during a protest on June 5, 2021, two days after Smith’s death. The 2021 charges against Ruddock have since been dropped due to “insufficient evidence”, and a lawsuit is pending against the city over the arrest.

AntifaWatch says it “exists to document and track Antifa and the far left.” The site publishes photos of nearly 7,000 people allegedly involved in antifa or antifa-related activities, along with other information about them. The information comes from news stories, social media posts, and submissions that anyone can make. The website states that “a report will only be approved if it has a reasonable level of evidence (news article, photo of arrest, photo of riot, self-identifying, etc.).” MIT Technology Review attempted to verify several of the listings on the site and found inaccuracies. For example, the daughter of former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is on the list for arrest at a Black Lives Matter protest on May 31, 2020 in New York City. AntifaWatch characterized Chiara de Blasio as “rioting with antifa”, although the police report does not indicate that de Blasio participated in riots

The website states that “a report on AntifaWatch is in no way an allegation of someone’s involvement with Antifa, terrorism or terrorist groups” and says it is “not a doxxing website,” although it explicitly attempts to identify and disclose personal information. about people. The messages often contain bigoted language. It also features a facial recognition feature: anyone can upload an image and the website will return potential matches from the AntifaWatch database.