The arm of Chicago's law enforcement known alternately as the Industrial Unit, the Intelligence Division, the Radical Squad, or the Red Squad, had its roots in the Gilded Age, when class conflict encouraged employers to ally themselves with Chicago's police against the city's increasingly politicized workforce. Following the Haymarket bombing, Captain Michael J. Schaack orchestrated a vicious campaign against anarchism, resulting in 260 arrests, bribed witnesses, attacks on immigrants and labor activists, and convoluted theories of revolutionary conspiracy. Continuing its use of both overt and covert tactics, such as surveillance, infiltration, and intimidation, Chicago's Red Squad in the 1920s under Make Mills shifted its attention from anarchists to individuals and organizations who the Red Squad believed to be Communist. Casting a wide net, the squad by 1960 had collected information on approximately 117,000 Chicagoans, 141,000 out-of-towners, and 14,000 organizations. After the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the Red Squad expanded its targets from radical organizations like the Communist and Socialist Workers Parties to minority and reform organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Lawyers Guild, and Operation PUSH.
After 11 years of litigation, a 1985 court decision ended the Chicago Police Department's Subversive Activities Unit's unlawful surveillance of political dissenters and their organizations. In the fall of 1974, the Red Squad destroyed 105,000 individual and 1,300 organizational files when it learned that the Alliance to End Repression was filing a lawsuit against the unit for violating the U.S. Constitution. The records that remain are housed at the Chicago Historical Society. The public requires special permission to access them until 2012.
Wow and we thought the Stasi kept files. For this time period these are a lot of files, why did our history books never teach us about this stuff? Why don't we learn about this stuff in school so that we can make sure that this stuff never happens again?
During the 1930s and 1940s, the Toronto Police under Chief Dennis "Deny" Draper returned to its function as an agency to suppress political dissent. Its notorious "Red Squad" brutally dispersed demonstrations by labor unions and by unemployed and homeless people during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Suspicious of "foreigners", the police lobbied the City of Toronto to pass legislation banning public speeches in languages other than English, curtailing union organization among Toronto vast immigrant populations working in sweat shops.
This kind of stuff goes way back and many of these practices have their hands mixed in with other dirty practices. So this sort of repression is not that new, and they have in times past used our fellow citizens as spies. So if this sort of thing goes that far back, then those people that were spies in each time period would not have forgotten how to spy, and they would ofcourse be called upon to take part again, plus their kids, family, extended family, plus the new generation. That explains how this sort of stuff could happen so fast. I was trying to figure out how over night my city could become a spy state, so this helped me understand it a bit better. LiKe I said, once these people start spying, there is no coming back from that.
Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America. - book reviews
Monthly Review, Nov, 1991 by Ellen W. Schrecker
Perhaps the central irony in Frank Donner's new book about the political repression practiced by urban police forces revolves around the word "terrorism." Touting their activities as necessary to protect American society against the vaguely defined forces of terrorism, the nation's red squads have routinely practiced that which they supposedly guard us against. They use violence and intimidation against their political enemies with a ruthlessness and flagrant disregard of legality that is all the more terrifying because it is done in the name of the law.
Whether describing Chicago's Subversive Activities Unit, Los Angeles' Public Disorder Intelligence Division, New York's Bureau of Special Services, or their counterparts in other cities, Donner offers a numbing litany of beatings, buggings, and burglaries--all in the name of law and order. The information that Donner has compiled here will force us to grant much more credit to the red squads in escalating the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s. At the same time, it offers little hope, given the ideological fervor and secrecy that characterize these outfits, that the illegal surveillance and harassment of dissenters has come to an end.
Local police have long been involved in political repression. Throughout the late nineteenth century, when the primary threat to the status quo came from organized labor, police officials often worked directly for big business, taking fees for breaking up picket lines or investigating union organizers. The local red squad leaders soon learned to solicit trade by exaggerating the supposed dangers they were facing. In the process, they adopted a countersubversive ideology that viewed all protest activities as the product of outside agitators.