The Los Angeles Police Department spied on anti-Trump protesters and even infiltrated an activist group that was planning anti-Trump protests, according to the Guardian.
An informant working for the LAPD secretly infiltrated a group called "Refuse Fascism" in 2017, recording multiple meetings that the group held. LAPD transcripts that were submitted in a criminal case against activists who blocked a California freeway during an anti-Trump rally were the first admissions that the informant existed.
The undercover officer was equipped with a hidden recording device and attended "Refuse Fascism" gatherings at a local church “in an attempt to elicit information regarding the closure” of the freeway and to express interest in being involved “in any such future activities,” according to the LAPD.
One of the activists who was monitored and recorded as well as charged with misdemeanors, Miguel Antonio, said he would not let the surveillance stop him from organizing:
“We’re not scared. We’re not going to back down in the face of repression. You’re in a church, and you’re meeting about organizing a peaceful protest, and you’re running the risk of being charged with conspiracy or these petty crimes.”
Similar incidents have also taken place across the US. In Sacramento, police pursued cases against left-wing activists at a white supremacist rally. In Berkeley, police collaborated with a "violent pro Trump demonstrator" to prosecute a left-wing group. There have also been similar controversies in Washington DC and Oregon.
The LAPD surveillance was "striking", given documented evidence of violence from the far right as well as the far left.
Mike German, a former FBI agent and expert on local extremist groups, said:
“This case seems to fall into a pattern of police agencies viewing anti-fascist organizing as terrorism, while overlooking the far more deadly and frequent violence perpetrated by white supremacists and other far-right militants.”
The LAPD reportedly didn’t conduct similar spying operations on far right groups.
The LAPD police chief, Michel Moore, reportedly “ordered a top-to-bottom review to determine whether the department’s stringent requirements for the use of confidential informants were followed”.
On September 27, 2017, Antonio was arrested after he shut down a freeway in downtown LA to protest Trump a year after his election. Shortly thereafter, the LAPD had an informant approach Antonio at a meeting.
During an 11 October meeting, the informant approached Antonio and said, “Are we gonna do like any freeway things again…or major things like that?”, according to a transcript of a secret recording.
“I’m not sure,” Antonio responded.
The informant then said he was interested in joining future activities: “I thought the freeway thing was pretty good.”
At one point, the informant caught someone on a recording say: “That’s an awfully hot coffeepot, should I drop it on Donald Trump?”
Damon Alimouri, Antonio’s lawyer, said:
"The LAPD surveillance was unjust and outrageous. [I] suspect this type of spying [is] likely to escalate across the country. The further left that younger people go, we will continue to see law enforcement infiltrating these groups secretly. To a certain extent, it might intimidate some, and I think that’s the intention of the LAPD.”
Frank Wulf, the pastor of the church, said: “The government is interfering with the rights of protest in America,” he said, adding that he worried about a chilling effect: “You never know if the person sitting next to you is a police informant or not.”