[sixties-l] Activist group exposes undercover officer

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Fri Apr 06 2001 - 19:48:13 EDT

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    Activist group exposes undercover officer


    The State News

    University police used an undercover officer to
    investigate a student activist group that was not charged
    with any crime, a top department official admitted in
    response to inquiries by The State News.

    Members of Students for Economic Justice, an officially
    registered campus group, said MSU police Officer Jamie
    Gonzales posed as elementary education junior Samantha
    Volare to take part in group meetings and activities for
    months beginning on Feb. 19, 2000. Group members uncovered
    the officer after she was seen on campus in uniform.

    In its response to a Freedom of Information Act request by
    The State News, the Department of Police and Public Safety
    denied having records or other documentation regarding
    investigations of the student group.

    But MSU police Assistant Chief Jim Dunlap said in a
    written statement that an investigation was ordered
    because officials were concerned a scheduled visit by
    World Bank President James Wolfensohn to speak at
    commencement could spur violence from protesters.

    A December 1999 protest at a World Trade Organization
    meeting in Seattle and April 2000 protest of the World
    Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington led to
    thousands of arrests.

    Several students involved with Students for Economic
    Justice took part in those protests.

    "Concerns were alleviated, and no further need for the
    approach has been required," Dunlap said in his statement.
    "Undercover investigations into student groups are seldom
    conducted here. Indeed, no others have been similarly done
    in decades."

    But history senior Michael Krueger, a member of Students
    for Economic Justice, said police have no reason to fear
    the group or its members, although some were arrested for
    civil disobedience during the Seattle and Washington

    Students for Economic Justice, formerly known as United
    Students Against Sweatshops, has focused much of its
    attention on protesting labor practices of university
    apparel-makers. The group has not had a significant run-in
    with police during its existence.

    "This is happening to a group really trying to do a good
    thing," Krueger said. "I wouldn't consider USAS radical -
    we work for workers' rights, like a union."

    Gonzales, a five-year veteran of the force who now serves
    as the Brody Complex community policing officer, was
    pictured in the March 15, 2000, edition of The State News
    protesting with the group. She identified herself as

    Gonzales declined to comment about her role in the

    Police have a sordid history of targeting political
    activist groups with undercover officers and other
    surveillance, said Henry Silverman, president of the
    Lansing chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and
    a retired MSU history professor.

    Silverman said he found something "creepy and
    reprehensible" about the recent behavior of MSU police.

    "I remember going to meetings of faculty to protest the
    war in Vietnam and university police took photographs of
    faculty," he said. "This was one of the lowest points of
    police action to sort out 'radicalism.'

    "This is another incident of when police crossed the
    line," he said of the recent tactic.

    The retired professor, who spent 37 years as a university
    employee, said students should have an unrestricted right
    to form groups and have protests.

    "These aren't criminals," Silverman said. "If they do
    something to break they law, they certainly should be

    "It sends a terrible message to students about their right
    to protest. Students ought to be outraged by this type of
    behavior by police."

    MSU President M. Peter McPherson, who spent most of the
    weekend in Minneapolis at the Final Four, urged members of
    Students for Economic Justice to take their concerns to
    the university's Police and Public Safety Oversight
    Committee. The committee of students, faculty and staff
    members addresses complaints issued against the police
    department or its employees.

    "In the context of the particular issues raised, it is
    crucial that we be mindful that at a university,
    especially at a university, the marketplace of ideas must
    be free and open," McPherson said in a written statement.
    "I personally have a commitment to ensuring the rights of
    our students to assemble and to discuss, without
    impediment, issues and matters of concern."

    The president has met with members of Students for
    Economic Justice several times since the group was formed
    to discuss university apparel labor issues. He most
    recently met with the group March 27.

    But despite the protests of members of Students for
    Economic Justice, the use of undercover - or "plain
    clothes" - officers is common practice for many police
    agencies and sometimes the best way to combat crime, said
    Chief Deputy Vicki Harrison of the Ingham County Sheriff's

    The county police force often uses such tactics to
    investigate stores or restaurants accused of selling
    alcohol to minors, although Harrison didn't recall any
    recent cases similar to MSU's.

    She said undercover investigations are a proactive
    approach to prevent crime, rather than simply
    investigating after a crime has occurred.

    "I've always been of the mindset that if you're ashamed to
    have somebody know what you're doing, don't do it," she
    said. "Clearly it's not an abuse of power and it's not a
    setup. That's not their role and there are laws against
    that. They're not encouraging or enticing anyone to do
    something illegal."

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