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Congresswoman Cori Bush calls out FBI for tracking her BLM protest activity

cori bush fbi

Greg Nash/The Hill
Rep. Cori Bush is sworn in on the House Floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 3, 2021, during the first day of the 117th session of the House of Representatives.

Representative Cori Bush (D-Missouri) is looking for the facts. The freshman congresswoman has requested FBI records regarding her experience as an organizer and activist during Black Lives Matters protests, to compare such information to the FBI details regarding the January 6 Capitol rioters. Representative Bush referenced her activities at BLM protests going all the way back to 2014.

In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Representative Bush laid out her request in writing, stating “Public reporting leaves little doubt that the FBI did, in fact, investigate and surveil those who were protesting for racial justice against police brutality. I was one such protestor.”

Representative Bush also noted that her protest activities occurred before her election to Congress. 

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FBI tracked BLM protesters but not Capitol rioters

While 500 citizens have been charged in conjunction with the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, FBI Director Wray admitted that, unlike Representative Bush, those rioters were not tracked prior to the Capitol breach. Wray also confirmed that he was unaware of any tips from social media about the protest, which was organized over multiple platforms. 

The FBI has long tracked the activities of Black protests and protestors, going back to the Black Panthers and Marcus Garvey. Prior to 2017, the FBI actually had a dedicated counterterrorism unit devoted to  “Black identity extremism,” which specifically referenced BLM protests and other peaceful activism against police brutality as a threat to law enforcement officers. Only recently, under the guidance of President Joe Biden, has the Department of Justice investigated extremism within law enforcement agencies.

Representative Bush’s letter to FBI Director Wray is dated June 4, and during his congressional hearing on June 10, she demanded to know why her requests have been ignored. “When can I expect to hear back from the bureau regarding that information?” Bush asked Wray at Thursday’s hearing, referring to the data the FBI had compiled on her protest activity. 

FBI Director doesn’t give straight answer

Continuing her line of questioning, she asked if the FBI had deputized federal agents during the BLM protests, if the FBI was authorized to use force against the Capitol rioters, and why FBI Director Wray had stated earlier in the hearing that the FBI did not surveil protestors under their First Amendment rights, when it became clear that the FBI did. 

FBI Director Wray squirmed under Representative Bush’s questions, often repeating that he could neither confirm nor deny any investigations into other members of Congress and their roles in the insurrection, which claimed the lives of five people on January 6.

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