Please email the Boston City Council or call your Councilors, to express opposition to the acceptance of $3.4 million in state funding for the Boston Regional Intelligence Center.
By 2021, a mountain of evidence had accumulated that the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), run out of the Boston Police Department, was spying on the residents of Boston and its surrounding municipalities, without reasonable suspicion of a resident’s personal involvement in an actual crime. Their racist “gang database” targets young people of color, even in some cases deporting them, without their having committed any crime. Their license plate reader systems keep tabs on where Bostonians come and go; they harass and intimidate filmmakers, Black Lives Matter protesters, and journalists engaging in First Amendment-protected activity. And nobody has ever obtained redress from them for violating Boston residents’ rights.
As a result, Boston City Council, in 2021, led by now-AG Andrea Campbell and then-Councilor Wu, voted to reject $850,000 in funding for BRIC.
Two weeks ago, now-Mayor Wu and Chair of Public Safety Flaherty brought forward a motion to waive a hearing to accept the same $850,000 in funding that the City Council had previously rejected. And another $850,000, for 2022. Oh, and another $850,000 for 2023. And another for 2024, totaling $3.4 million. The City Council rejected the motion to waive the hearing. On Sep 20, the City Council voted to refer the grants to the Public Safety Committee for a hearing. The hearing took place Friday, September 29 at Boston City Hall. Now, we’re expecting a Council vote this coming Wednesday, October 4, at their 12pm Council meeting.
The public hearing involved two hours of obfuscations and lies from Acting Director Walsh of BRIC and Commissioner Cox. There was explosive public testimony from filmmakers Lauren Pespisa and Rod Webber, who were targeted and harassed by white supremacist BRIC officer Andrew Creed, on the basis of a tip from a Proud Boy:
Local resident Will Justice, who was cleared of a charge of armed robbery, spoke about BRIC circulating alerts to local police after he was acquitted to be on the watch for him, which has led to his being stopped, pulled over and harassed and losing employment opportunities.
Mickey Metts, technologist and free software advocate, testified about how BRIC targets Boston’s “poorest neighborhoods with surveillance and isolation. Small things add up and create an atmosphere of unrest so police may respond with violence.”
We were joined by the Muslim Justice League, the Campaign for Juvenile Justice, and, remotely, by the ACLU of Massachusetts.
Each $850,000 motion simply says it’s for “upgrading, expanding, and integrating technology and protocols related to anti-terrorism, anti-crime, anti-gang and emergency response.” In practice, the grants would pay for more analysts and liaisons, to improve the efficiency of the surveillance state.
We say No. Council should keep rejecting this funding. BRIC is a secretive, unaccountable, scandal-ridden organization, that doesn’t deserve extra public funds on top of the already-large police budget. As Councilor Coletta argued, there should be an external, independent audit, such as those proposed here, to show that they are no longer violating the rights of the residents of Boston and the municipalities that surround it, before Council approves this extra money.