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Protesters Seek End to LAPD “Spying”

Nuha Abujaber |
April 11, 2012 | 8:11 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


(Creative Commons)
(Creative Commons)
Dozens of activists marched Tuesday in front of the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, demanding a stop to Special Orders 1 and 11, which allow the LAPD to conduct surveillance on citizens for non-criminal behavior.

The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which includes students, artists, teachers, and attorneys, carried signs saying “Stop LAPD Spying!” and “I Love My Privacy and Rights.” 

“We are here today to take a stance against the LAPD, folks who have been invading our communities and creating violence and promoting racism,” said Mariella Saba of the coalition, shouting into a loudspeaker. 

Since March 2008, under Special Order 11 and later Special Order 1, LAPD officers have been gathering intelligence and opening secret files on people for such activities as taking pictures, using binoculars, and taking notes at civic functions. Opponents say it is used to target certain communities and results in racial profiling and that it legitimizes spying by local law enforcement. 

“Special Orders 1 and 11 are another tool in the toolbox of the police department to further criminalize the immigrant community,” said Nancy Meza of DREAM Team Los Angeles, another group opposing the LAPD surveillance.   

“There are over 1,200 governmental agencies that do nothing but spy on you and me,” said James Lafferty, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles, to the downtown crowd. 

“National security agencies already collect 1.7 billion pieces of e-mail, phone calls and other types of personal communication.” Added Hamid Khan, a member of the anti-spying coalition: “By casting suspicion on non-criminal behavior, LAPD policies create the pretext for investigation and open files on people without their knowledge. We have been down this road before, and it’s time we put an end to this abuse of power.” 

Advocates believe that the data collected and recorded as Suspicious Activity Reports is shared nationwide with other law enforcement agencies, increasing the chances that law-abiding citizens could be mistakenly perceived as suspects. 

“In a matter of 27 months the LAPD collected data on 2,734 people for their constitutionally protected lawful activities, and 98 percent of the data was given to the joint terrorism task force,” said Shakeel Seyd, director of the Islamic Shura Council. “That data is being used and abused on people who were engaging in lawful activities in the city.” 

Lafferty noted that while the surveillance is justified by the police as a way of protecting against terrorism, “It is designed for a very different purpose, and that is to make the rulers of this country safe from we the people.”

The National Lawyers Guild and the Stop LAPD Spying coalition on Tuesday also filed a request for copies of the surveillance files under the California Public Records Act. 

“We want to pull the rock away from this hole of secrecy in which the LAPD is hiding,” said Lafferty.  “We want to know the basis for spying on us. Who interprets these so-called suspicious activities? If your name is on the list how do you get it off the list?” 

Activists are looking for the LAPD to rescind the orders. “We will not accept the special orders if they are reformed and sanitized,” said Seyd. “Let me tell you something, when you filter poison, it does not eliminate the poisonous element.” 




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