GPS Trackers and Stalking: Police Repression of Left-Wing Activists Continues

I think that by now, a lot of people are aware of some of the abuses that police have committed in the past. COINTELPRO is probably the most infamous example in the US, and in the UK, undercover cops formed relationships and even fathered children with left-wing activists, as part of spying on them. I suppose some people on the far right might defend this stuff, but nobody pretends it didn’t happen.

Unfortunately, I think some people believe that because these abuses were uncovered, and made headlines, and caused outrage, that cops don’t do that anymore, because now it’s not allowed, or because they won’t want to get caught again. I think it’s a reasonable, but misguided assumption that relies on the fact that for most of us, if we get caught doing something anywhere near that bad, we would suffer for it. The same isn’t generally true of police, or not to the same degree. Most of the time, the main concern is changing tactics so they don’t get caught again, and for that, they have a huge budget to spent on all kinds of surveillance toys, and the settlements they might have to pay for using them:

On Monday August 1st, Michigan activist Peatmoss found 2 GPS tracking devises attached with powerful magnets to the rear axle of their car, see pictures here. This happened after Peatmoss spent a week hanging out with friends at the Camp Gayling Week of Action against the Camp Grayling national guard base.

A lawyer calling the police on Peatmoss’s behalf relayed that the police confirmed the trackers were placed by law enforcement, though they refused to name the agency.

Three days before, on the evening of Friday July 28th, Peatmoss was arrested outside Lansing, MI after being followed by a large blue Ford pickup truck into a church parking lot to meet two other folks. The arrest stemmed from a warrant issued in another area of Michigan. During the arrest the police verbally stated that they believed the car had been present at a recent legal demonstration put on by Sunrise Ann Arbor on the sidewalk in front of Accident Fund headquarters, an insurer of the Cop City project. The cops stated they knew the car had driven by the home of Accident Fund CEO Lisa Corless, which was nearby at 3945 Turnberry Lane, Okemos, Michigan.

While in custody police attempted to coerce consent to a DNA sample by threatening Peatmoss with a longer detention. Peatmoss refused and was released without giving a sample. They also noticed their file had an “FBI number” highlighted underneath their SSN.

The second week of May, Peatmoss was followed for 45 minutes by a blacked out Ford sedan. The car began following them at their legal residence, the first time they had been home in several months. The car followed them onto the highway, off the highway, around in circles in a neighborhood, and then back onto the highway, only leaving when they were about to cross the Michigan-Ohio state border. They had given their legal name and address when putting money on many Atlanta Solidarity Fund defendants’ commissary accounts earlier this year.

This is police using their unaccountable power to harass and intimidate activists who oppose the continued increase in that power.

It’s important to understand that the abuses of government agents don’t stop happening just because they are uncovered. There need to be actual changes in the law that lawmakers have already demonstrated they don’t want to make, which means that it is on us to reshape the justice system, not just by voting in a system rigged to cater to the “elite”, but also by building collective power through workplace organizing, community organizing, and mutual aid, with which to carry out strikes and other disruptive actions. That’s the only way I can see to get revolutionary change, without a revolutionary war.

Government repression, particularly of left-wing political thought and action, never stopped. It is an ongoing problem, and one with which we will have to contend if we want to build a society that actually values justice and human rights. Police power is being used right now to quell movements for real action not just on the cops themselves, but on climate change, and economic injustice, and a whole host of other issues. For pretty much any change we’re hoping to make, if it improves life for people at the bottom, police stand in the way. They stand in the way because that is their job, and they will use every tool at their disposal to do it. That is why it is so important to organize, and to act together, because on our own, it’s easy for even a local police department to destroy us.

Peatmoss has an activist community supporting them, and helping to get the word out about what the cops are doing. That’s why the cops are deliberately targeting the community efforts to support activists who’ve been arrested – because community support works.

I want to close on this thought: it’s currently fairly easy for the police to target people like Peatmoss, because while they are not standing alone, they are a pretty small group. What I hope to see, and what the police fear to see, is that dynamic multiplied across the country. People willing to take direct action, and put their bodies on the line for a better world, supported by communities willing to defend them against repression. If that happened, then the changes we’re always told are so utopian might suddenly seem well within our reach.

If you value the work I do, please consider helping to pay for it over at Even small contributions like a couple dollars per month add up to make a big difference! If you can’t afford that, then I definitely don’t want your money, but I’d appreciate it if you shared this post with others, to help me increase my readership. Thanks for reading, and be sure to take care of yourselves in this scary world!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *