Spies and Provocateurs: Police Spying on Occupy Movement not Likely Limited to Los Angeles
Word that the Los Angeles Police, who sent in 1200 officers in riot gear to violently rout a few hundred Occupy Movement demonstrators from their LA encampment last week, had earlier sent 12 undercover young officers into the peaceful occupation camp to spy on the activists should come as no surprise.
Nor should wild and unsubstantiated claims--clearly bogus--that these spies overheard some of the protesters supposedly planning to sharpen bamboo sticks to use as weapons against police, come as a surprise either. Since the national Occupy Movement is by design rigorously non-violent, and since there has been not one example of occupiers using violence against police, even when attacked, if any of the police spies really heard such talk it had to have been coming either from some provocateur on the payroll of the FBI or one of the plethora of other federal intelligence agencies, or from another of the 12 LAPD undercover cops were so well disguised they didn’t recognize each other. (No such handmade weapons were in evidence during the police assault on the occupation, and no arrests were made of anyone allegedly making such plans.)
The LAPD has a long, sordid history of undercover activity, including provocateur activity, being used against peaceful protesters and anti-establishment groups, dating to the early part of the last century. More recently, the late LAPD police chief Daryl Gates famously operated, first under Chief Ed Davis, when Gates was director of the so-called Public Disorder Intelligence Division (PDID) and later as chief of the department, a massive spying operation that boasted dozens and perhaps over 100 officers working undercover. These cop spies were used not to attack organized or serious crime, but to monitor and gather dossiers on nonviolent political activists, nearly entirely on the left.
In the 1950s, LAPD "red squad" spies regularly infiltrated leftist labor and political organizations considered to be Communist or “fellow travelers” of the CP, as well as civil rights organizations. In the ‘60s, the PDID was used extensively to infiltrate anti-war organizations and black nationalist organizations.
In the mid-1970s, as the anti-war movement faded away, the PDID spy net widened substantially. I had my own experience with the broad reach of this LAPD’s spy unit, when I was a co-founder of a non-sectarian leftist alternative weekly newspaper, the Los Angeles Vanguard.
I and my fellow Vanguard members learned, several years after our venture had folded for economic reasons, that the PDID had sent a young officer tasked to it who was just out of the Police Academy to join our staff as a volunteer. The woman, Connie Milazzo, posed as a journalist wannabe, and asked for assignments, which we dutifully gave her. She also often volunteered to answer the phones in our office when we’d go to lunch -- which gave her an opportunity to talk to our sources if they called, and also to rifle our files, which of course were left on our desks.