As the US waits to hear whether a Missouri police officer will face charges for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the FBI is warning law enforcement agencies across the country that the decision “will likely” lead some extremist protesters to threaten and even attack police officers or federal agents.
Peaceful protesters could be caught in the middle, and electrical facilities or water treatment plants could also become targets. In addition, so-called “hacktivists” like the group “Anonymous” could try to launch cyber-attacks against authorities.
“The announcement of the grand jury’s decision … will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure,” the FBI says in an intelligence bulletin issued in recent days. “This also poses a threat to those civilians engaged in lawful or otherwise constitutionally protected activities.”
The FBI bulletin expresses concern only over those who would exploit peaceful protests, not the masses of demonstrators who will want to legitimately, lawfully and collectively express their views on the grand jury’s decision.
The bulletin “stresses the importance of remaining aware of the protections afforded to all U.S. persons exercising their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”
Within hours of the FBI issuing its bulletin, some police departments across the country issued their own internal memos urging officers to review procedures and protocols for responding to mass demonstrations.
Still, the bulletin’s conclusions were blunt: “The FBI assesses those infiltrating and exploiting otherwise legitimate public demonstrations with the intent to incite and engage in violence could be armed with bladed weapons or firearms, equipped with tactical gear/gas masks, or bulletproof vests to mitigate law enforcement measures.”
In its new intelligence bulletin, obtained by ABC News, the FBI says “exploitation” of mass demonstrations “could occur both in the Ferguson area and nationwide.”
In a recent interview with ABC News, Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey said people in “communities of color” often “don’t view us as people who really have the right to enforce laws or tell them what to do,” and sometimes it’s because of “the way they’ve seen us conduct ourselves in the past.”
In particular, African-Americans are disproportionally represented in crime. According to the FBI, 4,379 blacks were arrested for murder last year, while 3,799 whites were arrested for murder – even though census numbers show there are six times more whites than blacks in the United States.