For immediate release: April 3, 2024


To Members of the US Congress,

We, the undersigned, are writing this letter with great concern for the alarming increase in the use of financial surveillance as a weapon of oppression and legal abuse across the country. Mutual aid, including but not limited to bail funds, disaster relief funds, and funds for bodily autonomy, should never be criminalized—yet it appears that now data from banks and financial apps is being used to do exactly that.

In June, a bail fund aiding the Stop Cop City protesters in Atlanta were tracked, arrested in a militarized raid, and charged with money laundering and charity fraud—using their PayPal account data. Subsequently, more than 60 activists were indicted on racketeering charges in Georgia in relation to the Stop Cop City effort—wherein 15 charges against mutual aid organizers include reimbursing the purchase of a garden hose and eleven dollars of glue

This is a chilling illustration of the threat that the last 20 years of rampant financial surveillance poses to mutual aid organizations across the country—allowing every moment of connection between a community and activists, healthcare patients, and/or disaster survivors to become a weapon for bad-faith actors, be they law enforcement or vigilantes. Oppressive tactics like these have been woven into the fabric of this country and historically been used to disenfranchise marginalized communities. 

Further, the malicious prosecution and characterization of activists as terrorists or criminals encourages financial institutions to “unbank” them: people have had their bank accounts closed, credit cards canceled, and been banned from payment apps. Because our financial infrastructure is private and unregulated, there is no due process or recourse for unbanked organizers. We urge Congress to take immediate and long overdue action to protect the privacy of activists, who already face increased personal and collective risk in states seeking to clamp down on dissent and human rights. 

The right to protest should be protected by the First Amendment. Activists and concerned communities rely on the right to assemble, express their opinions or grievances, and to demand change freely, collectively, and publicly. This should be safeguarded at all costs. Law enforcement use of PayPal data and RICO indictments to charge individuals offering financial and legal support to frontline activists in Atlanta is the latest illustration of how financial data can be weaponized in order to reduce our rights. It also highlights the need for privacy-preserving tools that allow people to protect their financial and other data, keeping them safe from surveillance and harassment.

If you do not speak up and act now, Atlanta will set a dangerous new precedent for states to continue their march toward immobilizing and isolating activists with the help of Big Tech and Big Banks. We need immediate action. 

We urge Congressional leaders to:

  1. Defend the First Amendment rights of these and other protesters to dissent. Members of all communities should be able to protest peacefully and express their dissatisfaction with government plans without fear of attack. We call on Congressional leaders to condemn this wildly inappropriate law enforcement crackdown on the right to protest and against the historic role of bail funds in supporting popular resistance.
  2. Investigate the threat of abusive financial surveillance to traditionally marginalized communities, and take action to reduce the data-hungry practices of Big Banks and Big Tech that put users’ and activists’ rights at risk.
  3. Implore the Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and the Atlanta City Council to listen to the Atlanta community, defund Cop City, and cancel the construction lease. All charges against Stop Cop City activists and the Atlanta Solidarity Fund organizers should be dropped, and all activists should have their arrest records expunged immediately. 
  4. Champion the right to build community-owned and -governed alternatives to the abusive surveillance of today’s mainstream Big Tech and Banking systems, ensuring the creation of privacy-protecting technologies like Signal that protect vulnerable communities. The events in Atlanta illustrate that access to alternative technologies is becoming increasingly important. However, fear of prosecution has had a chilling effect on the creation and use of privacy-preserving tools. In the digital age, we urgently need private financial tools for safety, security, and organizing.

We call on you to lead the way in deterring future attacks on the right to protest and the historic role of mutual aid organizations in our country. The time has come for policymakers to end the aggressive regime of oppressive surveillance and legal abuse that threatens the bedrock of our constitutional rights, and the place to begin is in Atlanta, today.


Plan C
We are Family
La Frontera Fund
Lilith Fund
Techies for Reproductive Justice
Louisiana Just Recovery Network
Berlin Collective Action
Mutual Aid Hartford
Mutual Aid Eastie
Cascades Abortion Support Collective
Northwest Abortion Access Fund
Mootual Aid
Mobile River Collective
NorCal Resist
Mutual Aid LA Network
Our Justice
Cleveland Pandemic Response
InterReligious Task Force on Central America
Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire
Texas Equal Access Fund
Common Humanity Collective
Abortion Fund of Ohio
Abortion Liberation Fund of PA
Midwest Access Coalition