Local community organizer and activist Keedran Franklin participated in a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC Thursday morning (March 5), telling lawmakers his story of landing on the wrong watchlist and how ongoing surveillance has impacted his life.
Franklin was one of five presenters to speak on “Cointelpro 2020: How the FBI Continues Efforts to Disrupt the Fight for Racial Justice in America.” The presentation is hosted by U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of California. From a press release:
In the past two years, a series of documents came to light that exposed how the FBI had created a discriminatory and bogus “Black Identity Extremist” (BIE) designation in order to label racial-justice advocates a threat and spy on their activities.
While the Bureau now claims that it’s no longer using the BIE label, it appears to have simply renamed this category and is continuing to use FBI resources to spy on and investigate Black activists.
On Thurs., March 5, a panel sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D–California) will convene on Capitol Hill to discuss what policymakers need to know about this ongoing threat to the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Black activists. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D–Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (D–Michigan) will deliver remarks.
“The FBI has a long and shameful history of targeting peaceful protesters, especially people fighting for racial justice,” said Free Press Action Government Relations Director Sandra Fulton, who will be moderating the panel. “Unsurprisingly, this is getting even worse under the Trump administration. The Bureau is actively stonewalling congressional oversight. Lawmakers need to step up now to hold the FBI accountable and demand answers and transparency around these dangerous programs.”
Franklin was among the activists who participated in the 2016 I-40 bridge shut-down in response to officer-involved shootings. He was also among those who staged a “die-in” at the home of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.
Thereafter, he appeared on a watchlist, prohibiting him from even entering City Hall. Ever since, Franklin told The New Tri-State Defender, he has been subjected to federal surveillance that upended his sense of normalcy.
“For me, this type of thing creates trauma and paranoia. It causes stress,” Franklin said just hours before the briefing. “Which causes other health concerns. (Being spied on) has affected how I move and what I say.”
When asked if he was choosing his words as he spoke to the TSD, he replied, ”I have to ‘extra-govern’ myself, because others want to ‘over-govern’ me.”
But if he’s already feeling the stress of being surveilled, won’t testimony on Capitol Hill just bring more attention?
“I am very vulnerable, even in this situation,” Franklin said from his DC hotel room. “And sacrifices must be made.
”But they’re already watching me. I’m already on the list,” he continued. “Why not continue fighting? That’s what pushes me forward. For the betterment of everyone.”
Other panelists included:
- Sandra Fulton of Free Press Action;
- Myaisha Hayes of MediaJustice;
- Alice Speri of The Intercept and
- Gerardo Romo of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program.