As Hampton rises to power in Chicago and continues to disrupt the racial status quo, he becomes even more of a target for the FBI. In the summer of 1969, Sheen’s Hoover delivers another lecture to a packed auditorium, instructing his agents to get Hampton’s “Black ass off the street.” Later, Hoover tells Plemons’s Mitchell that “your GI [ghetto informant, referring to O’Neal,] is our best chance at neutralizing Hampton.” Under increasing pressure from Mitchell, who threatens to expose him to the Panthers, O’Neal eventually provides the FBI with the floorplan of Hampton’s apartment—crucial intelligence that made possible the chairman’s brutal assassination.
The Black Lives Matter movement rose to national prominence during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the August 2014 killing of the Black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer. Similar to its response to the BPP, the FBI almost immediately began monitoring activists associated with the BLM movement and used Black informants to gather information on their activities. On August 3, 2017, the FBI’s counterterrorism division released a report declaring that “Black Identity Extremists” were a new threat to national security. Even though—as numerous lawmakers, civil-rights advocates, law-enforcement executives, and scholars have pointed out—Black identity extremism doesn’t exist, the FBI used the “BIE” concept to instruct agents on “how to police young Black activists.” (The agency has since discontinued use of the term.)
Less than a week after the 2017 report was released, a new violent social movement emerged. Beginning on August 11, militia groups and neo-Nazis marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. One white supremacist at the rally rammed his car into a group of counterprotesters, injuring 19 people and killing a 32-year-old white woman named Heather Heyer. At a press conference in the aftermath of Heyer’s killing, former President Donald Trump declared that “there were very fine people, on both sides.” White-nationalist, militia, and extremist movements have grown substantially in the United States over the past two decades, but have not experienced the same relentless pursuit by the FBI as groups designated “Black” and “radical.”
Read: The inaction of Capitol police was by design
Like the false equivalencies that FBI agents in Judas draw between the Black Panthers and the KKK, the government responses to Black activists in contrast to white supremacists today are lopsided and misguided. When Black groups agitate for better living conditions and an end to systemic racism and police brutality, they are quickly labeled a threat to national security. Whether violent or nonviolent, many Black movements are criminalized, and law enforcement tends to become consumed with eliminating groups challenging white supremacy. The white supremacists, however, have managed to avoid the same level of surveillance, infiltration, and deadly outcomes. The state’s refusal to take serious action against the very real threat of white extremism helped culminate in the storming of the Capitol on January 6.