The FBI has recently been contacting activists aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement with an allegedly not-so-subtle message: stay away from the upcoming Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
According to The Washington Post, at least half a dozen people associated with BLM have been contacted by the FBI in the days leading up to the RNC—some by phone, others with in-person visits from federal agents.
Samuel Sinyangwe, a San Francisco-based activist and data analyst who works alongside several prominent BLM activists on the Campaign Zero initiative to end police violence, described his FBI encounter succinctly to the Post: "The agent basically told me not to go to Cleveland."
He later tweeted more about the experience:
According to the Post, agents have also contacted BLM-associated activists in Chicago, Charlotte, and Washington D.C in what the Bureau characterized as "community outreach."
When the FBI came looking for Johnetta Elzie, a BLM activist who has been involved with the movement since the protests in Ferguson, MO, they found her grandmother instead, who proceeded to give them an earful on her granddaughter's behalf.
Elzie later confirmed the visit on twitter, adding that others who had been contacted weren't necessarily eager to open up to the agents either.
While Cleveland is sure to be the site of large-scale protests during the RNC, at least one Black Lives Matter-associated organizer told the Post that many of his fellow activists had already planned to skip the convention. "Most folks in our movement aren’t getting on a plane to waste time with Donald Trump," Mervyn Marcano explained, adding that local BLM members will be on hand to represent the group.
News of the FBI's calls and visits to prominent BLM activists came just as Deray McKesson—arguably the movement's most visible member—participated in a White House confab to discuss race, law enforcement, and social justice with President Obama.
A potentially volatile confluence of protests and counter-protests during the RNC could emerge in Cleveland. Members of the New Black Panther Party have pledged to protest the convention. So has a neo-Nazi group whose recent march in California turned into a bloody melée.
City officials have banned a number of items within the designated protest zone outside the convention arena. They include: tennis balls, aerosol cans, and toy guns.
Cleveland law does allow protesters to carry working firearms.