A group of self-proclaimed anarchists who were arrested Monday for allegedly plotting to bomb an Ohio bridge were infiltrated by a confidential FBI informant, according to an affidavit filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland on April 30th, 2012.
Douglas L. Wright (aka “Cyco”), 26; Brandon L. Baxter (aka “Skabby”), 20; and Anthony Hayne (aka “Tony”, “Billy”), 35, were arrested by members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force Monday night on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce. Also arrested were Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23.
Several of those arrested are directly tied to Occupy Cleveland. After first trying to appear disassociated from the alleged bomb plotters, Occupy Cleveland did finally acknowledge that several of those arrested are members of their group. It denounced the planned actions of violence on the part of those members and canceled a May Day protest in light of the arrests.
But this isn’t the first time that some of these suspects have had a brush with the law as an Occupy member. Brandon Baxter was previously arrested in March during an organized Occupy Cleveland protest against a public auction of foreclosed properties.
Baxter is said to have attended Occupy meetings for months and was also an organizer for the local "Occupy the Heart Festival." The affidavit filed Monday states that he was also a planner for a march on city hall and was frustrated that he expected the city to give him a hard time acquiring the permit, “because they want to shut us down.” Baxter even lists Occupy Cleveland as his place of work on his Facebook page and has been seen on video at Occupy Cleveland events.
Two others also list Occupy Cleveland as their place of work on Facebook.
The affidavit filed on Monday details that the FBI informant attended an October 21, 2011 protest at the direction of the Cleveland FBI, based on previous reports of threats and potential criminal activity. While at the protest, the informant met Doug Wright, the two exchanged phone numbers and had several meetings in November, 2011. They remained in occasional contact between then and February, 2012, when Wright met again with the informant on February 15, 2012. During that meeting, Wright discussed planning anarchist direct actions as the warmer months approached and indicated that the two would set up a time to test recipes from The Anarchist Cookbook for smoke bombs. He also told the informant about several other members of the anarchist group in Cleveland, noting that Brandon Baxter would be important in their planning because he believed that Baxter had prior experience with such activity.
On February 20th, 2012, Wright and Baxter both met together with the informant, and according to the affidavit, there was discussion of planning a potential attack on a target.
The locations they talked about taking action against included a hospital or bank using stink bombs, explosives and/or paint guns. Wright brought up possibly purchasing C4 explosives but said it may not be a possibility because of the cost associated with finding and buying C4. Wright and Baxter decided that doing some kind of attack during the opening of a new casino in Cleveland would make a good statement. Baxter went on to talk about the G-8 in Chicago and the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
A few days later, similar discussion continued when the informant was also introduced to Connor Stevens and Anthony Hayne. Additional meetings took place amongst the group over the course of February, March and April, in which a variety of topics were discussed:
- The use of a computer program that protects a user’s anonymity, in this case, for the purpose of downloading The Anarchist Cookbook
- Using pre-paid debit cards or bitcoin accounts to purchase the program (“Baxter explained that he has a friend who is a hacker and can transfer paper money to bitcoins”)
- Use of an anonymous email and proxy server system like Hushmail to communicate without being tracked
- The opportunity to create a civil distraction at an upcoming festival in order to commit a larger act of violence
- Making smoke bombs and other destructive devices
- Bringing a bunch of anarchists to Cleveland for an event they plan on holding during the last week in April
- Blowing up a bridge in the corporate district of downtown Cleveland…to cause a lot of financial damage and causing the government to have to put security on every bridge in the country (they noted that they didn’t want to be seen as terrorists, so they discussed doing so at night or pretending to be part of a construction crew so as to “limit casualties and potential for killing possible supporters.”)
As those conversations and the group’s plans progressed, eventually an FBI employee, posing as a contact of the informant with access to riot gear and explosives, conducted several discussions and meetings with members of the group. They negotiated the purchase of C4 explosives and various riot gear and arranged for delivery in anticipation of a planned attack to coincide with their local May Day protest. The group conducted surveillance on potential targets, discussed their feasibility and eventually decided on the Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge in Sagamore Hills, Ohio. By the end of April, they were definitively planning to blow up the bridge on May 1st and discussing the NATO summit that is scheduled in Chicago May 19-21st.
Lastly, as the surveillance and site planning ended, conversation turned to events after the bridge bombing. Wright stated that Chicago is the main place they were worried about having the protective gear because there is no telling what they might have to use there. He said it will be crazy in Cleveland, but crazier in Chicago with people coming from everywhere to Chicago to protest the NATO summit. Wright predicted a “s—t load” of people going to Chicago will be coming to Cleveland first and it will be “off the hook” here for a week, then everyone here will leave and downtown Cleveland will be “a pile of rubble and ashes,” as anarchists in every major city in the country will ultimately be “rioting and destroying each city in the country.”
The affidavit concludes essentially that Wright was a key ringleader of the plan, and “recruited Brandon Baxter and Connor Stevens to participate in some form of direct action, initially involving smoke grenades and destruction of signage on buildings in downtown Cleveland.” It further states that Wright, Baxter and Stevens later agreed to purchase C4 explosives in pre-made improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and that they would place the IEDs on the bridge and arrange to detonate them. Joshua Stafford was recruited and Anthony Hayne reintroduced into the plan by Wright only the day prior to and the day of the delivery of IEDs, respectively.
Yesterday, in a post entitled “Occupy May Day: Factions Plan Violent Disruptions,” I wrote of how some Occupy groups are handling the factions within the movement. The majority of them acknowledge that there are in fact elements that wish to pursue more violent tactics within their own groups and across others. With the Chicago NATO summit just around the corner, the expected turnout will include Occupy groups from all across the country, and this has organizers in a quandary. Some groups have adopted principles that strictly denounce violence, while others refuse to do so and instead take a “you do your thing, we’ll do ours” type of approach. I reminded readers then – Occupy is a leaderless movement. There is no controlling the tactics of other groups; they merely all share the same vision. The problem is, as we saw in the affidavit of the alleged would-be Cleveland bridge bombers, many feel that it will take disruption and violence to realize that vision, to change the system that Occupiers despise. And they see the Chicago event (from May 19th-21st) as a point of climax for the movement.
The only thing that the alleged bombers did seem to consider before solidifying their plan was how their actions might be reflected by the media. They ruled out certain proposals based upon this consideration, and settled on a target that they believed would somehow be accepted by the general public. They limited their aim instead to those who work in the corporate district: “They need to make sure everyone knows that the action was against corporate America and the financial system.” That fact should be a red alert to President Obama and our lapdog media that this message of class warfare will cause wounds that may never heal. You have divided the country to such an extent with this message that activists who mean to do this country harm somehow think that their act might be less offensive if it’s seen as being against “the 1%.”
Despite all its attempts to portray the movement otherwise, these are no longer isolated incidents for Occupy. If they were, then there would be little need for Occupy camps to adopt principles for working with one another that establish an autonomous view on violence. The media can no longer be so complicit in dismissing every incident. How many will it take before they’re no longer considered isolated incidents? 10? 100? 500? This is a movement - one with a message that has politically divided this country. As long as we continue to accept these as “isolated incidents," we will continue to have potential targets. And one day, we won’t be so lucky as to nab the “rogue elements” before they succeed.