Use this button to switch between dark and light mode.

CBP Policed 2020 George Floyd Protests

September 27, 2023 (2 min read)

Emily Creighton, Tsion Gurmu, AIC, Sept. 21, 2023

"[A] new report publishes some of the documents uncovered in that investigation and reveals the widespread involvement and abusive enforcement tactics used by CBP during the 2020 protests.

The following are some of the report’s findings: 

  • CBP was present in cities and towns throughout the country. The agency appeared in locations as disparate as Whitefish, Montana and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The report includes a map that links cities to records documenting CBP’s presence. 
  • Emails among CBP agency officials reveal that CBP inserted itself in policing efforts even when CBP received no invitation from the local authorities where the agency appeared. 
  • During CBP’s deployment to Portland, which involved multiple teams of agents and occurred between July 2 and July 28, CBP officers used chemical agents—such as pepper spray—numerous times and were involved in numerous arrests. 
  • CBP surveilled protesters including by obtaining discussions among users of an encrypted messaging chat room.  
  • While the Trump administration and CBP communications described protesters as “rioters,” agency records contradict this narrative. CBP noted throughout its own reporting that protests were peaceful and smaller than expected. 
  • From the FOIA documents, it appears some of the only additional training many CBP agents received prior to deployments to protests was an hour-long online training, and the training was completed only a few days before deployment. One CBP official warned that agents should not be involved in direct interaction with the public because of insufficient training. 

As the report points out, CBP and other federal agencies appeared in U.S. cities under the guise of protecting federal property and monuments, but the agency often went beyond this mandate, and arrested protesters for actions unrelated to protecting federal monuments."

Prem Thakker, The Intercept, Sept. 21, 2023

"Tsion Gurmu, legal director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, viewed the CBP deployment to Floyd’s funeral as emblematic of a colossal operation with little answerability. “It is disturbing to know that enormous resources were spent to send federal law enforcement to team up with local law enforcement across the country to quash Black organizing, not to mention the militaristic language used to describe their role (e.g., developing a battle rhythm) and surveillance reaching as far as George Floyd’s funeral,” Gurmu said. “It’s clear that we still don’t have a full picture or understanding of the role of federal law enforcement and immigration agencies, and what role they might play in future policing efforts. We expect CBP to be primarily at our borders, but it seems that their authority far surpasses that.” "