Hello, My name is Derrick Broze. I am a journalist with Activist Post, Anti Media, and Mint Press News. I am also an activist and an author based in Houston, Texas. I am being targeted by the Houston Police Department.
Some of you may be aware that I made 3 trips to Standing Rock, North Dakota last fall to cover the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. What you might not know, is that on November 15, 2016 I attended an action against the pipeline in downtown Houston. Activists, water protectors, and allies marched, sang songs, and prayed outside the headquarters of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline.
After about two hours of peaceful action on both sides, I witnessed a man being violently thrown to the ground and arrested. I ran across the street to the scene and did my best to keep my camera on the man and the officer. After several minutes of dodging cops on horses and staying as close as I safely could, the officers began pointing at me and directing the others to grab me. I left the scene immediately because I was not being detained and had done nothing wrong.
Two days later I was notified a warrant was about to be issued for my arrest. Activist friends supplied the money to get me a bond so I did not have to sit behind bars. At my first court date I was told that the Houston Police Department is seeking charges on me for “interfering with the duties of a peace officer”. It is alleged that I scratched one of the officer’s thumb. I, of course plead not guilty and for the last eight months have been going back and forth to court. At every court visit the District Attorney has offered me jail time, with every offer being lower than the one preceding it. The last time I went to court I was offered a fine of $500. I turned down all of these offers because I know I have done nothing wrong. Please watch the video below to form your own perspective. As you will see, I absolutely exercised my freedom of speech to let the officers know how I felt about the situation. However, at no point did I interfere or touch the officers. Beyond those details I will refrain from speaking further because I am awaiting my trial on August 21. For now, I would like to explain what this case is really about.
I have been an active activist in Houston since 2010 when I founded the Houston Free Thinkers. Since that time I have confronted local politicians (including the former Mayor and HPD chief), I helped expose HPD’s secret use of Stingray surveillance tech, I confronted war criminal Henry Kissinger, and have had numerous run-ins with the police for exercising my rights.
As a member of the Houston Free Thinkers (HFT) dealing with the Houston Police Department is nothing new. Since the group’s inception we have been hassled by HPD for protesting outside of the Federal Reserve, and been met with force on our marches against the NDAA and SOPA. Shortly after HFT began visiting the Federal Reserve and organizing nationally for an action called Occupy the Fed we were assigned our own officer. He would follow us at all our events in a blacked-out Dodge Charger. On November 22, 2011, myself and another member of HFT were arrested for blocking the entrance to the Fed as part of national action. This was when the group first began noticing more police presence at our events. On January 28th, 2012 the Houston Police Department came to a Houston Free Thinkers event and pulled a shotgun out on hundreds of unarmed citizens. I was accosted and shoved into the back of a cop car. After the District Attorney’s office refused to accept felony Inciting a Riot charges I was eventually charged with Failure to Obey a Lawful Order From a Peace Officer.
While incarcerated I spoke with an officer who was aware of the Houston Free Thinkers. He told me that the group had been mentioned in an HPD training session. I was told his captain believed the group to be “a menace”. This rumor was later confirmed in April 2013, when officers speaking on the condition of anonymity told us that HPD has held at least one training session discussing our actions. The emails specifically mention me.
One email reads, “I’ve seen the intel they have on HFT. Very scary. You’d think they were a violent organization. I’ve been forced to watch videos they have on them, having to keep my mouth shut. I totally support HFT. I sent an email trying to warn them of the intel being gathered on them but never received a response”
The anonymous leaker goes on to say that HFT and I should be aware that we might be targeted. They also describe the training session which mentioned our group and actions.
“They may very well be aware of what I told them, but if not, they need to know we were shown videos in a class at HPD (HFT own videos posted on YouTube). The instructor was able to name each & every leader of HFT. I felt HPD has a great disdain for their organization. It’s hard to explain & you’d have to have been there to sense the militarized tone of the instructor. Just wanted them to know to watch their backs & wouldn’t be surprised (have no knowledge of this whatsoever though) that they could be infiltrated by undercover officers in an attempt to garner intel. Again, I really have no clue how far HPD takes that stuff. I observed this during a training session at HPD over a year ago. Subsequent training sessions, there’s been no mention of HFT. And please note they were not the subject of the training. Please don’t pass my name along to them. If they are under a surveillance, my name associated with them wouldn’t be good. But if you have direct contact with Broze, I’d be more than happy to provide any info I hear in the future to you so that it can be disseminated to them. I did speak with a couple of others attending the training and mentioned during the break how I couldn’t find anything wrong with what HFT was doing. Definitely wouldn’t have gone over well during the class had I mentioned it.”
Two months after this incident, we were passed along another warning – this time with an image of the training sessions. An image was leaked to the group that shows HPD officers inside a classroom with “Houston Freethinkers” written on screen while one of the HFT videos is on the background.
These images came with warnings that the officers were being trained on “ways for them to deal with protesters so they (the cops ) won’t break the law when they go for the actual arrest.” The group was also told, “You guys think you know the law and how to get around certain scenarios, but trust me we know more and know how to get around YOU”. The session was apparently held to inform officers of activists who are aware of the law and how to find ways to successfully make arrests while dealing with “know it all groups”.
After these revelations came to my attention I began researching surveillance technology and filed dozens of open records requests with the Houston Police Department. After two years I was finally handed hundreds of pages of documents. While most of them were useless, several pages reveal that the HPD has indeed been following the activities (online and in the real world) since at least 2011. I think it’s completely obvious that the Houston Police Department has been attempting to keep my activism and journalism under their thumb. Now that they have a (flimsy) case against me they are attempting to keep me off the streets and away from questioning those who run Houston. This is why I need your help.
If you live in Houston and can attend the trial on August 21 please contact me for more details. Especially if you were a witness to the incident on November 15. Even if you do not live in Houston you can help. If this incident bothers you and you believe I am being targeted please let the District Attorney and the Assistant DA know how you feel. I am not calling for any abusive or disrespectful calls or emails, but rather, let them know why you think I am being targeted and that this represents a grave injustice.
Thank you to everyone who continues to support me during this case. It is not the end of the world. It is just a small road bump on the way to much bigger things. I did nothing wrong and I am happy to be an example of not cowering to the state’s demands and if there is a possibility of winning this case. We need more people to stand up to the injustices, big and small. The more of us who stand up, refuse to take a plea, and clog up the system, the more likely the state will be to reconsider targeting people for victimless actions.
Harris County District Attorney’s Office