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LAPD chief promises public report on use of informant against anti-Trump protesters

James Queally, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- Days after a Los Angeles Times report revealed that the LAPD ordered an informant to spy on members of a political group planning protests against President Donald Trump in 2017, Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday that his agency would soon publish findings of an investigation into the matter, while also suggesting the group had engaged in violence in other cities in the past.

Moore told the city's civilian Police Commission that the Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy could finish its review of the Los Angeles Police Department's decision to place an informant inside the group Refuse Fascism in as little as two weeks, and promised to make those findings public.

But as members of the group and other community activists stood up to criticize the use of the informant during Tuesday's meeting, Moore also suggested the group had been linked to violent actions in the past, including arson and assault.

For four weeks in October 2017, the LAPD's Major Crimes Division sent the informant to secretly record audio of Refuse Fascism's meetings, which were held inside a Los Angeles church, as the group planned demonstrations to mark the one-year anniversary of President Trump's election. Civil rights advocates and experts who monitor the political fringe have said the LAPD's tactics needlessly stepped on the group's First Amendment rights, since Refuse Fascism has rarely been linked to violence.

Information about the informant's presence at Refuse Fascism's meetings became public as part of an ongoing criminal case against several members of the group who were arrested for blocking a downtown section of the 101 Freeway during anti-Trump demonstrations in late 2017.

On Tuesday, Moore said that members of Refuse Fascism in Los Angeles had traveled to demonstrations in other cities where violence had occurred, including a February 2017 demonstration against conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley's campus that left several people hurt.

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Moore, however, said it was unclear if members of the L.A. chapter played any role in the violence that occurred in other cities.

"The investigation, as I understand it today, is that members that identified themselves as being within this group had traveled to other parts of the country, and that in other parts of the country, there had been criminal acts including vandalism, assault with a deadly weapon or arson," Moore said. "Whether or not these individuals that are here in the L.A. group who traveled to those other locations and those other protests that saw those type of attacks were the ones responsible or not I believe was part of this investigation."

Berkeley was home to several political rallies that devolved into street brawls in 2017, with far-right figures and groups linked to white nationalism often trading punches with masked anti-fascists and other left-wing protesters using so-called "black bloc" tactics.

Refuse Fascism has a chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the group has been involved in several demonstrations against the Trump administration across the U.S. But it is unclear what, if any, involvement the group had in violence in Berkeley in 2017.


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