Tamika Mallory is aware that her activism work comes with risks, and recently she opened up about some of the unsettling experiences she’s had with surveillance in retaliation against her fight for equality.
The 2017 Women’s March co-organizer detailed her experiences being tailed by drones from unknown sources on at least two occasions, one being shortly after her attendance at the protest in honor of Breonna Taylor following her death one year prior.
Beginning at 12:57 in the full interview with The Shade Room, Mallory was asked whether she still dealt with instances of being followed by drones, an issue she mentioned during a previous Instagram Live interview with the gossip site. Not only was her answer yes, but she also elaborated on one scenario which stood out to her as particularly odd.
“I was in Louisville, Kentucky, for Breonna Taylor’s — the one-year anniversary or commemoration of her being killed,’ she replied. “As I was leaving the protest, we’re separating. I’m going along with a group that I was with, there was a drone. And the thing about it is, these drones don’t just follow me. Because you know there can be a drone that’s off in the air and you don’t really pay attention to it because they’re always around if you really look. I’m one of these people that’s always outside looking for equipment in the air. But they do things, intimidation tactics, because it got down as low as possible and literally walked with me directly for about five blocks.”
The drone’s behavior was so strange that photographers who were with Mallory at the time felt compelled to document the situation. Eventually, Mallory confronted the drone, which caused its unknown operator to back off. “I have pictures of it. Literally, I could send you pictures and videos that other photographers, who were with us, they saw what was happening and ran over and started to take pictures and video of how close it was, like as I’m walking.”
“So finally I was like ‘Well hey then! Clearly, you wanna say what it is. What’s up?!’ Then finally it kind of goes off, after you acknowledge that it’s there or that ‘they’ are there, whoever ‘they’ may be. … I had three over my car one day and just a few months ago. I got pictures of that too.”
After the car incident, Mallory attempted to find out whether police in the area were having her watched, which she said isn’t uncommon, although it’s done under the guise of suspicion of breaking curfew or involvement with “possible arson” or “rioting.” According to the 2018 Coretta Scott King Legacy Award recipient, she eventually received word that the police weren’t behind the tail this time.
“I called several people that I know that work within the police department and asked like, ‘Why are y’all following me like this? Or following my organization, the co-founders, because we were all in the car together?’ They said ‘We’ll call you back’ because they didn’t know, clearly,” she explained. “Usually, they do! Usually, they’ll say, one, it’s a curfew and you’re outside so we’re getting ready to arrest you if you don’t get home by a certain — they’re not nice. Two, there’s suspicion of possible arson, rioting. … ‘If you’re out there, we’re watching you too to see whether or not you are inciting any potential danger.’ Which we’re not, and that’s not what we do and they know that, but it’s still an intimidation tactic that they use. … They called me back and said ‘We don’t have anything here where we’re surveilling you today.'”
Mallory noted that while she was in the area, which she chose to leave unnamed, she and her UntilFreedom co-founders dealt with constant issues from white supremacists, so the culprit could have been anyone, from the locals to the government.
Either way, as a Black woman who knows who she is and fully grasps what she’s up against, Mallory says she isn’t about to let anyone scare her away from the fight against systemic and racial injustice. “The thing is, I’m at the point in my life where I realize what I do every day, and as much as my mouth is always going, as you can see I can talk. When you talk a lot and you’re a Black person, particularly a Black woman, there are people who want to shut you up.”