Website and Activist Guide Focus on Freedom of Information Act for Social Justice Movements
May 29, 2019, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights launched the Open Records Project: FOIA for the Movement, which will provide resources and trainings focused on the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state open records requests to assist advocates in more effectively using open records requests to challenge oppressive systems of power. The launch includes publication of “FOIA Basics for Activists,”—a guide containing an overview of the FOIA process, step-by-step instructions for filing FOIA and state requests and navigating agency responses, and strategies to use open records requests and the documents they produce to advance social justice advocacy and campaigns.
“Open records and freedom of information requests are powerful tools for activists to use in their efforts to challenge injustice,” said the Open Record Project’s coordinator, Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Legal Worker and author of the booklet, Ian Head. “We hope the Open Records Project can assist our allies in achieving their social justice goals.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights frequently uses FOIA requests, litigation, and advocacy to support, publicize, and advance goals of movement and community partners. Among other open records efforts, the organization has uncovered information that the National Day Laborers Organizing Network used in a campaign against the federal “Secure Communities” deportation program; obtained documents regarding the policing of anti-pipeline activists; and revealed the existence of a Department of Homeland Security document known as the “Race Paper”— sent in response to a request from the Center for Constitutional Rights and Color of Change seeking documents related to the surveillance and monitoring of Movement for Black Lives protesters and organizers.
The Freedom of Information Act is a federal statute (5 USC § 552) that enables anyone in the United States to request records from federal agencies. The act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966, the same year the Center for Constitutional Rights was founded. States also have their own open records laws, many of them enacted after the passage of FOIA.
For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ project page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, The Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.