Austin Police Officer Tries To Paint Police Accountability Groups As 'Domestic Extremists' In FOIA'ed Emails

from the sovereign-citizens-more-ridiculous-than-threatening,-honestly dept

An activist is a terrorist, at least according to Senior Police Officer Justin Berry of the Austin Police Dept. While the terms aren't mutually exclusive, a person can be one without being the other. In Berry's mind, they're both, and he feeds off the FBI's paranoia to reach his conclusion.


If you can't read it, it basically says that Berry has come across some information on a "national domestic extremism trend" that is echoed by local activist groups. He claims to have found "mirror warning signs" in "FBI intel." From there, his own report follows, naming such unlikely domestic extremists as CopBlock, CopWatch and Peaceful Streets. Also included are sovereign citizens groups and government accountability activists. [pdf link]

A nationwide movement has begun against the United States Government and all government officials including those at the local level and the police officers employed by these agencies (Anonymous, 2012). Locally, numerous activists have combined their programs to work together towards the same agenda, which seems similarly in line with that of the national revolution movement…
Here's the list of groups Berry believes are an imminent threat.

Peaceful Streets Project Austin, TX- Leader and Founder Antonio Buehler

Cop Block- Austin, TX

Cop Watch- National and Local

Texans for Accountable Government Austin, TX (State and Local legislative front) - Leader and Co-Founder John Bush

Occupy Austin- Austin, TX (Political)

Lone Star Sovereign Mutual Aid Response Team Austin, TX (legal aid and blanket calling) - Leader and Founder John Bush

Anonymous- Global (Computer Hacking and obtaining of personal and banking information)- Unknown


Oath Keepers- A first responder and military organization supporter group- National (Police Information Source)- Unidentified Members, one known member within the Austin Police Department

Institute for Justice- National. Texas Chapter Headquarters in downtown Austin, TX (Legislative Arm)- Unidentified at this time
His report goes on to say that these disparate groups share common members and acknowledges that the operations themselves are often peaceful -- or at least, not directly violent. But he calls out individual members for social media posts containing broad threats or other antagonistic behavior as being indicative of these groups' latent potential for violence.
Below is several screen shots that show these organizations intentions, statements, and goals that should not be discredited as mere chatter, but considered an active threat until after November 5, 2012...
Unfortunately, the screenshots are not among the documents posted at antimedia.org [which also include discussion of an online impersonation charge that likely went nowhere], but anyone who's perused a few comment threads or Facebook posts can probably imagine what was included. In any group, there are always a few commenters who will advocate for violence in response to police misconduct and abuse. These are generally not indicative of the group in total, but do tend to skew higher in certain activist groups. Rather than address the threats as words of individuals, Berry tries to tie the whole thing together as a revolutionary force composed of sovereign citizens, police accountability activists and Anonymous itself. Then he uses a movie to illustrate the severity of the situation.
A good visual of what they are hoping for can be seen in the movie for V for Vendetta. basically what they are basing all their movements off of. At time marker 1 hour 42 minutes a detective is heard telling the plan which is basically hoping one police officer will make a mistake and poor decision, in the case of the movie killing an unarmed child committing a minor offense. They then used that event to bring out regular people to support their cause. Though in real life they do not have numbers needed to pull anything like that off, which is why they will have to create a problem by claiming one-thing ahead of time, then forcing police to take a certain action. My concern is that John Bush has already stockpiled up weapons…
… and so on. Fortunately, Justin Berry's hysteria (possibly prompted by some recorded run-ins with members of these groups) falls mostly on deaf ears. Much more measured responses are given by other law enforcement officers and supervisors.

Following the notification that Peaceful Streets was planning to hand out free cameras to citizens to record police activity, Lt. Robert Richman had this to say.
Please see Tom's email below. It summarizes a very good approach to use while discussing the recent "video" activist movement with our officers. If our officers encounter any problems with the activists. please have them bookmark the incident via DMAV and send me a copy of the case number.

Although we don't anticipate any issues, officers should always be cognizant of their officer safety and the safety of the citizens on scene. If problems do arise. officers should be well versed on the various tools available within the law that may assist them. A few examples are:

Texas Penal Code 38.15 Interference with Public Duties
Texas Transportation Code. Section 552.006 Use of Sidewalk (Le. Pedestrian in Roadway)
Calming, but with a hint of authority behind it. He references "Tom's email," which is even more forthright in its assertion that recording police officers is perfectly acceptable behavior.
I have reminded my officers that there is nothing wrong with citizens recording us while we work. Don't let someone bait us into a negative confrontation.

The would-be camera-persons are to keep their distance and not interfere with the Incident. I have told my guys that 30' is a fair guideline for acceptable distance, since any closer and the subject becomes a potential immediate threat, which causes an officer to divide their attention. However this will be up to the officer to reasonably articulate if they decide to enforce this. Ultimately, maintain officer safety and if the person attempting to records us legitimately interferes with a police incident, arrest them.


I have encouraged my officers to welcome the recordings and present a pleasant professional image for the cameras. "Smile and wave, gang. Smile and wave" - The less our officers respond to the baiting, the more quickly they will tire of their game.
Lt. Tom Sweeney's advice is sound, although he's a bit wrong to belittle recording police officers as a "game." To some, it undoubtedly is, but to many others, it's one of the only forms of officer accountability available to average citizens.

As to Justin Berry's breathless statements that activists are endangering police officers by posting their personal information online, Lt. Richman chills his heated assertion with obvious facts.
Additionally. some officers have complained about the activists posting links on Face Book tothe officer's pay and other personal data. Officers should be reminded that our pay is actually public record and easily found as is many other bits of information via a simple Google search. Officers should be reminded to lock down the security settings on their Face Book accounts and to cleanse any personal data they find on the internet by contacting the site which shows the data.
Antimedia.org portrays this as a wholesale libeling of these activist groups, but what's released here appears to be nothing more than the fruits of one officers' personal, um, vendetta. As was briefly mentioned earlier, Berry has had multiple run-ins with one of these activist groups -- Peaceful Streets -- and appears to be hoping to find a "legal" way to mute their presence (note how it's listed first and explained in the greatest detail). The other cops in the thread appear to be much more pragmatic, even up to the point of feeling citizen recordings are a "game" that activists will tire of if officers refuse to rise to the "bait." Berry's inferences are objectionable but he seems to be finding little support. Without that, there's not much he can do.

Filed Under: accountability, austin, extremists, foia, texas


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 7:57am

    Re:

    For the most part, it seems to be a game of "lead the officer to do something bad" or "trick the officer into saying something that could be considered objectionable".

    Yes, it's exactly that - now replace "officer" with "citizen" and you have the basis for most of the FBI's foiled "terror plots."

    Now, if the officers are stupid enough to bite, then unfortunately it shows how ineffective all the training, memos, press coverage, etc. has been in getting this simplistic point through their heads. Doesn't it?

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