CITY HALL — The Police Department said Monday that officers monitored protesters in the wake of the Ferguson, Mo., conflicts, and that reports on protests were sent from the city's emergency center to mayoral staffers at the time the Laquan McDonald video was being released.
The Sun-Times' Mick Dumke reported the police surveillance Saturday, a story culled from emails obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed Monday that the Department gave permission to specifically monitor protest groups including Black Lives Matter after the Ferguson, Mo., protests broke out after the police shooting of a black man in 2014.
Yet Guglielmi denied that constituted "spying," saying, "This whole investigation was documented ... and it was deliberate."
He insisted police operated not "undercover," but as plain-clothes officers bearing badges and guns.
"Just because an officer's out of uniform doesn't mean he's undercover," Guglielmi added.
Joe Deal, deputy chief of staff for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, made sure City Hall had up to date reports on protests from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, the Sun-Times reported. Police also kept tabs on the activity of the Black Youth Project 100 and other activist groups, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mayoral spokesman Adam Collins maintained that is standard operating procedure to send reports from the emergency office "not just for protests but for snowstorms, floods, the marathon, championship parades and countless other events involving large numbers of people."
Guglielmi defended the police practices Monday.
"When large groups gather in public spaces, CPD follows a set of routine protocols to ensure that both the First Amendment rights and safety of all individuals involved are protected," he said. "These protective actions — which happen in limited circumstances — are conducted to protect public safety and people's First Amendment rights and are continuously monitored by attorneys, and documented to ensure transparency with the public."
The Sun-Times reported that police have received Department permission to spy on several groups over the last seven years, including the Service Employees International Union, Occupy Chicago and groups protesting Chicago's 2016 Olympics bid and the 2012 NATO summit.
Police were legally forced to curtail spying by a Department group known as the "Red Squad" in the '70s.