FBI’s ‘black identity extremist’ report subject of Oct.3 event

In 2017, the FBI came under fire after a report revealed it had begun using the term “black identity extremists” in official documents to describe black activists and individuals who were considered security threats by law enforcement. The classification shares multiple similarities to the bureau’s COINTELPRO project, which was used throughout the 1950s and ’60s to track and disrupt domestic political organizations, including the Civil Rights movement.

More recently, the term “black identity extremist” was applied to activist Rakem Balogun, a founding member of the Dallas-based black power group Guerilla Mainframe. Balogun was arrested in December 2017 and later learned the FBI had been investigating him for domestic terrorism, monitoring his social media posts for anti-police rhetoric. Charges against Balogun were later dropped in May 2018, following widespread backlash.

A series of “Threat Guidance” documents leaked in August 2019 showed that the FBI under President Trump considers “black identity extremists” a bigger threat than white supremacists and al-Qaida.

With this issue emerging in the public sphere, the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law on Oct.3 will host political journalist Melanie Schmitz for a discussion on the black extremist identity report.The lecture will take place at 12:15 p.m. in the law school’s sixth floor moot courtroom, 383 South University Street in Salt Lake City.

Schmitz has worked as a senior editor at ThinkProgress. Prior to that, she served as a politics reporter and news editor at Bustle Digital Group covering a variety of topics, including foreign education initiatives, viral epidemics, global conflict, and the 2016 presidential election. She works with reporters covering Congress, the White House, and the Trump administration.

The event is the second presentation in the Zions Bank “Diverse Ideas in Law and Culture” speaker series which is designed to bring a wider range of speakers and perspectives to the College of Law.

“The College of Law is pleased to welcome Ms. Schmitz as part of the “Diverse Ideas in Law and Culture” series,which aims to enhance the dialogue with the University campus and Salt Lake community on topics related to law and culture,” said Jim Holbrook, a law professor and co-organizer of the event.

The event is free and open to the public and attorneys who attend are eligible for 1 hour of CLE.