Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comment from Barrett Brown.
Former D Magazine contributor Barrett Brown was at a canal boat in east London last month when U.K. police arrived to arrest him. After making bail, the Dallas native was released the next day but was promptly nabbed by immigration officials.
The embattled journalist and American ex-pat had allegedly overstayed his visa, according to the Guardian . Authorities also targeted Brown for alleged incitement and public order offenses relating to a banner he’d held up at a protest, which read "KILL COPS.”
Speaking to the Guardian, Brown said he planned to claim asylum in the United Kingdom.
An independent journalist and media critic, Brown is known for his “close association” with the Anonymous hacking movement, according to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a database of press freedom incidents. When federal authorities in 2012 began to crack down on a hacker group linked to Anonymous, the FBI raided Brown’s home as well as his mother’s.
In an email, Brown told the Observer: "I'm quite grateful for the Metropolitan Police arresting officer's open admission that they had arrested me as a back channel favor to the FBI, which appears to have another round of still-secret charges prepared for me should they manage to get me extradited."
He added, "I also very much look forward to exploring 10 years of related issues with the UK's Home Office as the asylum process plays out over the and years to come. All glory to Napoleon!"
After that, Brown was arrested and indicted on numerous federal charges, including threatening an FBI agent. He was ultimately sentenced to more than five years in prison.
According to the Guardian, Brown had been in Britain since late last year, but he attracted attention after he was photographed at a London demonstration in April. There, Brown held up part of a banner that was supposed to read “COPS KILL.” At some point, though, the two words were reversed.
A photo of Brown holding the banner began making the rounds on social media, and soon, right-wing journalist Andy Ngo accused him of being linked to Antifa.
The unmasked man in the center holding the “Kill cops” banner at the far-left London protest is #antifa-linked Barrett Brown. He has incited violence before & also tweeted about constructing an Ashli Babbitt statue that could be used for target practice. https://t.co/qDNMczFsrX pic.twitter.com/YWIczSBrBX— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) April 4, 2021
Brown told the Guardian he’d been arrested on alleged offenses pertaining to the banner. He hoped to gain asylum in the U.K. because he felt he’d been persecuted for his journalism in the States.
“The asylum case is something I’ve been thinking of doing for a couple of months, because I’m just not confident in the U.S.’s ability to properly handle me, any more than they did last time,” he told the Guardian.
Roughly five years after the 2012 FBI raid, Brown was again arrested after speaking with VICE about the country’s “creeping surveillance state.” The following year, someone threatened to blow up D Magazine if it didn’t stop publishing Brown’s work.
Dallas officials never charged anyone in connection to the bomb threat, according to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. D Magazine Editor Tim Rogers wrote about the ordeal, but a few days after publication, the post was “abruptly deleted without any explanation.”
Brown’s public tussles with law enforcement earned him a number of supporters. He also gained widespread support among press freedom groups and became somewhat of a popular culture figure, getting a mention in the television series House of Cards.
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