Phoenix Metro Police, Feds
Working Together To Blunt Activists
A New Report, Dissent Or Terror, Details The Harmonious Relationships Between Local Cities, Law Enforcement And The Business Community To Stymie Activist Effectiveness
Dissent or Terror.
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
June 5, 2013 — DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy recently released Dissent or Terror an 88-page report illustrating a complicated network of law enforcement agencies and large corporations working together to stifle Occupy Phoenix and similar protests.
The report — which is supplemented by over 1,000 emails, communications and other documents in the appendix — highlights the ways in which local and federal law enforcement and large corporations cooperated with one another through the use of “fusion centers” and other means, especially in the Phoenix metro, to limit the impact of activists that could adversely affect the corporate business community.
The document primarily focuses on “fusion centers,” information-sharing communities made up of local and federal law-enforcement agencies. The centers were originally created in a “counter-terrorism/all-hazards” capacity.
According to the document, the centers, and the Arizona center (ACTIC) in particular, have taken on expanded roles, which includes cooperating with businesses and corporations involved in the ACTIC Community Liaison Program.
ACTIC Community Liaison Program “often shared ACTIC intelligence with security personnel employed by ACTIC CLP member corporations/banks...and ‘critical infrastructure/key resources’ ‘threat and vulnerability assessments’ within their respective law enforcement agencies, and to feed intelligence gathered by these agencies back into ACTIC, for the use of other ACTIC-engaged entities (both in the public and private sectors).”
There are 800 ACTIC Community Liaison Officers operating in Arizona.
Some locally relevant sections of the report include information regarding law-enforcement and corporate collaboration concerning multiple Occupy Phoenix activities and the protest of the ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit (SNPS) in Scottsdale in late 2011.
On each occasion, the document claims, local law enforcement coordinated with security personnel and upper-level management at interested private parties and corporations (such as the J.P. Morgan Chase, the Phoenix Convention Center, the Downtown Phoenix Partnership and Westin Kierland Resort & Spa) to share information regarding possible protests and inhibit activists.
For instance, Phoenix Convention Center Security Systems Manager Travis Wauneka was frequently privy to law enforcement information regarding protests in downtown Phoenix.
“PPDHDB records show that Wauneka had been privy to PPDHDB/ACTIC intelligence relating to a number of Phoenix protest events throughout 2011 and 2012. It is important to note that the Phoenix Convention Center (which is owned and operated by the city of Phoenix) is a member of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership (DPP), a private economic development organization consisting of several downtown Phoenix business interests,” according to the document.
Additionally, during the ALEC protests, multiple off-duty police officers paid by ALEC and Westin Kierland utilized undue force and unlawful arrests to break up the protest, according to the document.
The document also has a chapter entitled “The Creepy Guy Cometh: Undercover Cop at Large, ACTIC and PPDHDB Work to Gather Intel for ALEC” that covers the person known as “Saul DeLara” in detail. DeLara, the false name of a Phoenix Police undercover officer who Dissent or Terror author Beau Hodai believes is Phoenix Police officer Saul Ayala, initially ingratiated himself in the Phoenix anarchist community in mid-2011 by attending meetings at the now-defunct coffee shop and popular anarchist hangout Conspire in downtown Phoenix.
According to Dissent or Terror, DeLara passed himself off as a homeless Mexican national with ties to Mexican anarchist groups. While the document gives the impression that the activist community in Phoenix never fully accepted DeLara, he was able to infiltrate the community well enough to provide law enforcement with detailed information regarding protests and other activist goings on.
DeLara’s time undercover abruptly ended at an ALEC protest general meeting in November when a protester and former Starbucks barista recognized him as a former customer and police officer.
The document also states that the Phoenix Police Department initially assigned 13 undercover officers to the Occupy Phoenix protests in mid-October 2011, though only DeLara (or Ayala) is explicitly mentioned. It is unclear whether any of these other officers remain active within the Phoenix activist community.
Law enforcement, Phoenix Police specifically, also garnered information on protestors and their activities from members of the local business community, according to the document. Dissent or Terror mentions Cindy Dach, co-owner of both Changing Hands Bookstore and the MADE art boutique on Roosevelt Row, by name. Dach is also a co-founder and member of the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation.
An email from Dach to law enforcement included information on activist events and social media links regarding upcoming protests in the area.
Attendees at a Memorial Day activist meeting expressed a mix of exasperation and anger when talking about Dach, who they believe “sold out” the interests of local residents in order to protect her own business and financial interests in the neighborhood, which include her businesses and the First Friday art walk, the monthly banner event for the Roosevelt Row CDC.
Another area dwelled on in the document is law enforcement’s use of social media monitoring to keep tabs on protest movements in the Valley. Specifically, Phoenix police department and ACTIC employed Intelligence Analyst Brenda Dowhan primarily to monitor Occupy Phoenix and related groups online. This information was also shared with ACTIC member businesses.
“Records show numerous examples of Dowhan’s diligence and dedication in acting as a watchdog for private interests who may have been the subject to protest-related discomfort,” according to the document.
In response to the document, some Phoenix-area activists organized a forum at an empty lot in the Roosevelt arts district on Memorial Day. Of the roughly 30 participants that attended the meeting, a majority identified themselves as anarchists, though not every person in attendance chose this designation.
Multiple attendees had been identified by name in the DBA Press document or the accompanying appendix of documents.
The forum participants collectively requested that they remain anonymous in press reports on the event.
The release of the document sparked a mix of outrage and relief within the community. While all activists voiced frustration and anger with what they stated were illegal abuses of power and violations of privacy, multiple attendees also poked fun at law enforcement for perceived shortcomings and inaccuracies in police documents, including the misidentification of possible “extremists” and the lengths law-enforcement went to to monitor simple social media accounts and campaigns.
The forum included the creation of an agenda by attendees, a discussion on problems within the activist community exposed by the report, and a brainstorming session focused on developing tactics and solutions to these problems.
One major topic of discussion was how to create a more effective “security culture” within the activist community in order to prevent the infiltration of law enforcement in the future. The security culture discussion also covered the ways in which activists can alter the use of social media to prevent the police from acquiring sensitive information on the movement via the internet.
The activists attending the meeting did not originate from one specific movement. Rather, participants in Occupy Phoenix, Native American protest groups, anarchist groups and others attended the event and expressed a desire to gauge the current positions and opinions of the other groups and people in attendance.
Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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